Cam Talbot, Rangers keep rolling with win over Islanders
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Consider the opportunity seized by Cam Talbot.
When the New York Rangers learned in early February they would be without the services of Henrik Lundqvist indefinitely due to a vascular injury it was a big blow to a team that was in the midst of a battle for the Metropolitan Division. Out went their no. 1 goaltender and in came a number of questions.
Could Talbot shoulder the workload of a No. 1? Would general manager Glen Sather acquire a veteran netminder as a stop-gap solution before the March 2 trade deadline? Would this injury derail the Rangers’ season?
A little over a month later, Talbot has indeed shouldered the workload and has helped keep the Rangers in the race for a division crown.
When the 27-year old Talbot took over the starting job on Feb. 4 the Rangers were third in the Metro, four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins. After their 2-1 win over the division-leading New York Islanders Tuesday night, which saw 29 saves from the netminder, they now sit one point behind them and three points up on the Penguins with a game in hand.
All Rangers have done since Lundqvist’s injury is take 23 out of a possible 32 points when Talbot has started (and 2 out of 2 when backup Mackenzie Skapski has gotten his chance). The fact that he’s come in and the wheels haven’t fallen off is no surprise to his teammates.
“I think we said that before he even [took over for Lundqvist] that he was going to be solid for us,” said defenseman Marc Staal. “We see him everyday in practice. We know what he’s done in the opportunities that he did get, and he’s seized the opportunity and played unbelievable. He’s made some big, timely saves when we needed them the most. That’s what you need from your goaltender to win hockey games."
One of those timely saves came late in the second period with the score tied at one. A J.T. Miller turnover in the Islanders’ zone allowed Josh Bailey a breakaway, which Talbot cooly saved and froze for a face-off.
“They go ahead 2-1 there it could be a different game going into the third,” Talbot said.
A fortunate bounce off Ryan Strome's skate early in the third period gave Rick Nash his 39th goal of the season, one that would stand as the game-winner.
The Islanders had regained the possession battle late in the second period after dominating the opening 30 minutes. Despite action he was facing, Talbot didn’t allow himself to get rattled, at least that’s what he showed on the outside.
“I’m not as calm as you think out there," he said with a smile, “but I just try to stay focused, especially on [Bailey breakaway]; make him make the first move, try not to bite because once you do he’s going to expose you.”
Talbot’s play, plus Sather strengthening the NHL’s third-ranked defense (2.32 goals allowed per game) at the trade deadline has kept Stanley Cup hopes alive as the Rangers await the return of Lundqvist, who’s been facing shots and participating in on-ice workouts.
“We’ve always had a lot of confidence in him and we've got confidence in our group,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. “Guys are playing hard in front of Cam and we’re winning hockey games, so we’re going to go get on a plane right now and go to Washington and try and win another one.”
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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy
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