Photo by Associated Press.
Originally Published: January 7, 2018 6 a.m.
GLENDALE — Henrik Lundqvist had gotten his team to the shootout, but the veteran goalie needed a moment to collect his thoughts as he stared down longtime former teammate Derek Stepan with the game and an additional point on the line.
Lundqvist got the job done one final time, stopping Stepan on the final attempt of the shootout. He stopped 37 shots through overtime and all three he faced in the tiebreaker, Mika Zibanejad scored in the shootout and the New York Rangers beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 Saturday night.
Lundqvist’s save on Stepan, a teammate for seven seasons until he was traded to Arizona in June, sealed New York’s third win in five games, and seventh point in the last four.
“The best thing is for me is to be in the moment and not think about what he’s going to do. ... It’s a mind game almost when you face Derek there at the end,” Lundqvist said. “I don’t want to start overthinking it. But it was fun.”
Stepan smiled a little when reliving the moment with his ex-teammate.
“He’s the king for a reason. He backbones that team really nicely and he was excellent,” Stepan said. “I thought it was actually going to squeak by him but somehow he got a pad on it.”
Brady Skjei took a slashing penalty on Arizona’s Clayton Keller at 1:29 of overtime, setting up a Coyotes power play. However, Arizona couldn’t take advantage.
Jimmy Vesey scored the tying goal in the second period for the Rangers, who are 6-2-2 in their last 10 and went to overtime for the fifth time in seven games.
Anthony Duclair scored midway through the first for his second goal in two games for the Coyotes, who have earned at least a point in four of seven games. Antti Raanta, who came over in the trade with Stepan, finished with 24 saves in his first time facing his former team.
“When I got a couple of saves and got into the rhythm, it was awesome playing against (Lundqvist),” Raanta said.
Duclair did just about everything he could to set up his goal. A nudge he delivered to the Rangers’ Kevin Shattenkirk led to a penalty on the defenseman for delay of game when he dislodged the goal from its mooring.
Duclair scored seven seconds later at 10:50 of the first. Duclair helped teammate Christian Dvorak dig out the puck on a faceoff, then was in position on the flank as Dvorak delivered a backhand pass to Stepan for a shot. Stepan’s try came out to Duclair, who put the puck away for Arizona’s fifth power-play goal in four games.
“Could be our best period of the year,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “We should have had three or four goals.”
Vesey tied it at 5:11 of the second as he stole the puck from the Coyotes’ Oliver Ekman-Larsson and put a shot past Raanta from the side for his ninth of the season.
“He was a force. He carried the puck with speed. He’s tough to stop when he’s got a lot of momentum like that,” the Rangers’ J.T. Miller said of Vesey. “‘Hank’ (Lundqvist) gave us every chance to win so we found a way to get it done, I guess.”
Lundqvist kept the Coyotes from regaining the lead when he got a glove on a hard shot from Duclair at 10:05.
Raanta was also solid. He sent away a screaming shot from Marc Staal with 3 1/2 minutes left in the second, and went spread-eagle for another stop with 5:44 to go in the third.
The Rangers got close to taking the lead early in the third amid a flurry of activity in front of the net with Raanta out, but the puck bounced away and was cleared. The Coyotes had two shots in succession on Lundqvist a few minutes later, but he stopped Duclair’s try and the rebound by Brad Richardson.
“Typical NHL. It was tight, it was hard fought in the third,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We got a big penalty kill in overtime and ... at the end of the day, Hank was the best player on the ice and permitted us to get two points.”
Lundqvist earned his 424th career win, passing Tony Esposito for sole possession of eighth place on the NHL’s career list. Lundqvist trails Jacques Plante by 13 for seventh place. He also appeared in his 777th game, tying Tom Barrasso for 19th place. ... Rangers F Mats Zuccarello, the team’s assists leader, did not play due to illness, missing his first game of the season. ... Richardson played for the first time since Dec. 23, missing four games with an upper-body injury. ... Recently claimed C Freddie Hamilton still has yet to play for the Coyotes. He was scratched on Saturday.
Rangers: At Vegas on Sunday night.
Coyotes: Host Edmonton on Friday night.