CALGARY — Henrik Lundqvist accomplished something on Friday that hadn’t been done by a New York Rangers goaltender in over 55 years ago.
Lundqvist had a career-high 50 saves for the second straight game to backstop the Rangers to a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames. He stopped 50-of-55 shots in a 6-5 win over the Vancouver Canucks two nights earlier.
Back-to-back 50-save performances hadn’t happened for New York since Hall-of-Famer Lorne ‘Gump’ Worsley did it in January 1963.
"You want to feel like you’re making a difference out there. That’s why I’m here," said Lundqvist.
The feat came on his 36th birthday.
"I’m 1-0 as a 36-year-old," quipped the veteran Swede, whose 430 career wins ranks him eighth on the all-time list.
The save that had everybody talking and left Mikael Backlund shaking his head came in the opening minute of the second period.
With the game tied 1-1, Lundqvist dropped his stick and acrobatically dove across the crease to get his blocker on what looked like a sure-goal for the Flames centre.
"When it happens that quickly you don’t have time to think. You just react and improvise," Lundqvist said.
Right after, the Rangers went up the ice and got a goal from Pavel Buchnevich that would end up being the game-winner.
"If I score there, it’s a totally different game," said Backlund. "It’s obviously frustrating. I tried to shoot quickly and shoot hard and off the ice. If I would have put it on the ice, it would have been a goal. Just one of those times he got over in time."
Leading the way offensively for New York (29-30-6) was recently-acquired centre Ryan Spooner, who stayed hot with a goal and an assist. The 26-year-old has one goal and six assists in three games since he was part of a package traded to the Rangers from Boston for Rick Nash.
"It’s been great," said Spooner. "I just really want to help out and that’s what I’ve been trying to do."
Spooner completed the scoring with a nifty breakaway goal at 10:48 of the second.
Kevin Hayes also scored for New York. The Rangers will go for the sweep of Western Canada on Saturday night when they take on the Edmonton Oilers.
"Our compete level has been good all year. Guys work hard. Guys prepare themselves. Some nights we execute better than others, but as far as our work ethic, in my estimation it’s always been there," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
Brett Kulak scored for Calgary (32-25-9), which has lost three straight and is falling back of the pack battling for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. Next up is a meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday as the Flames open up a three-game road trip.
"It’s a matter of scoring right now. We haven’t put the puck in the net in the past three games," said Flames captain Mark Giordano. "When we get those chances, we’ve got to get some traffic and bear down."
Calgary outshot New York 51-27.
"The big thing is we have to stay away from being frustrated," said Calgary centre Sean Monahan. "We had a lot of looks, but we also gave up quality chances and they capitalized on those. We’ve got to clean that up, but we have to move forward and string some wins together."
Lundqvist improves to 25-21-5.
John Gillies had 24 stops to fall to 2-2-0. The Flames fell to 3-6-1 since the loss of veteran goaltender Mike Smith to a lower-body injury, which has left the crease to rookies Gillies and David Rittich.
Notes: Matthew Tkachuk had an assist giving him 49 points, surpassing his total as a rookie… Drew Shore made his debut for the Flames. He was acquired from Ottawa at the trade deadline… The Rangers improved to a perfect 18-0-0 when leading after two periods… Micheal Ferland (upper body) and Kris Versteeg (hip) both practised on Friday, but wore no-contact jerseys. They’ve missed three and 43 games respectively.