January 30, 2014
Along with collecting four points in their two Stadium Series games this week, the Rangers' netminder was pleased that his pre-game nap and preparation wasn't interrupted, like it was on Sunday, thanks to a sun glare delay.
Everything was different for Lundqvist Wednesday night. He may have been under siege by the Islanders through the opening two periods, facing 25 shots, but the puck only found its way behind him once. He finished with 30 saves and passed Ty Conklin with his third NHL outdoor game victory.
"It was another amazing night," said Lundqvist afterward. "You're just thankful to get this opportunity and also have everyone [the fans] showing up tonight to make it so special."
The fans showed up, all 50,027 of them, selling out the home of the Yankees for the second time in four days. Lundqvist's teammates also showed up for the start of Wednesday's game against the Islanders. Unlike their game against the Devils, the Rangers did a strong job of preventing odd-man rushes and keeping the number of quality chances by the Islanders to a minimum.
Lundqvist said keeping to his usual pre-game routine helped calm him down early and put him "in a good place." His first 20 minutes against New Jersey saw him allowed three goals on 10 shots. It took until the Islanders' 25th shot to tally their only goal.
In front of Lundqvist, the Rangers' defense played smarter after their nightmare first period against the Devils, an area that's improved the last several weeks.
"One of the things that I know we're doing better is we're defending better in certain areas," said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. "The way we're defending permits us to be a little quicker on our transition. Our transition permits us to use our speed, and our speed is a big weapon to this team. We've got a lot of fast players that push back the other team's defense, and I think we've been using that element a lot better."
Coupled with that, the win gives the Rangers two more points and a little more room in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff picture with the Olympic break approaching. "It's exciting that we're growing here as a group, as a team," said Lundqvist.
The outdoor game experience is one that not many players have gone through during their career. Lundqvist played two of them in the span of four days; both of which ended in victory. That will help years from now when he looks back on these games.
"It's two days that I will remember for the rest of my life."
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