A Birthday Fit For A King, As Rangers Escape Calgary

Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t get much defense for his 36th birthday. He did, however, earn a piece of NHL history.

For the second consecutive game, Lundqvist made at least 50 saves and emerged with a victory, as the Rangers took a 3-1 decision from the Calgary Flames on Friday night, improving to 2-0-0 on a three-game Western Canada tour. Lundqvist is the first goalie in NHL history to post 50 saves in back-to-back games and emerge victorious in each.

Despite the seemingly lopsided shot total, Calgary winning that battle by a 51-27 final, the Rangers (29-30-6) played relatively consistent hockey with a unit featuring various newcomers still adjusting to the New York system. Just over four minutes in, Ryan Spooner continued his scorching hot entry, earning yet another assist on Kevin Hayes’s opening goal just over four minutes in. Spooner would later tally his first goal as a Ranger in the midway part of the second, one that gave the Rangers their final margin.

The show, however, belonged to Lundqvist, who has spent the Western Canada trip silencing his doubters. Wednesday’s performance in Vancouver was impressive enough, making 50 stops in a 6-5 overtime victory. In that game, Lundqvist became the first Ranger since 1996 to make 50 saves in a win, as Mike Richter achieved the feat against New Jersey. With the Friday night victory, Lundqvist entered more conversations with fellow goaltending legends.

He was the first goalie to make 50 or more saves in back-to-back games since Gump Worsley did so in 1963, also for the Rangers, and the first to put up multiple 50-save games since Roberto Luongo did so for the Florida Panthers in the 2003-04 season.

Lundqvist almost didn’t last the whole affair, as the Rangers experienced a scary situation in the early stages of the second period. As Calgary put up the pressure, forcing Lundqvist to make 19 saves in the first period, they continued their onslaught in the second. Reduced to using his thinly veiled blocker hand, Lundqvist capped off a terrific sequence of saves, giving the Rangers an odd-man rush. While Pavel Buchnevich went down the ice and scored, Lundqvist writhed in pain, his hand injured in the chaos. After the Buchnevich goal, Lundqvist got medical attention from the bench, but quickly stepped back in.

Despite the lopsidedness in shots, the Rangers did get some prime opportunities during the rest of the game, hitting several posts. Lundqvist’s antics, however, negated the need for another score.

Calgary’s lone goal came from Brett Kulak, his second career goal. Both have come against the Rangers, the other coming in the teams’ February matchup at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers will conclude their road trip tonight, as they travel to Edmonton (10:30 PM, MSG).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490

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