Lundqvist celebrated his new seven-year, $59 million deal with a dominant performance against the Sabres, recording 27 saves. He made spectacular save after spectacular save, and deserved a shutout. It also completely buried any idea of a goaltending controversy between him and Cam Talbot. Lundqvist, however, did something more for his team. He looked relaxed and fully focused for probably the first time all season, and this is critical to the Rangers going forward.
Lundqvist also did what he has done time and time again for the last nine years for the Rangers: carry his team to victory.
The Rangers got spectacular goals from Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello, plus a power play tally from Brad Richards. Aside from that, the rest of the team did not exactly inspire confidence. Up until Nash’s goal late in the first period, the Rangers looked lifeless. They only had two shots on goal for the first 10 minutes of the game, and the Sabres looked quicker and more determined.
The Rangers never really established momentum in the second period despite a one-goal lead, and the game was still up for grabs.
Then, Lundqvist took over in the third. He made at least five spectacular saves, including robbing Cody Hodgson and Steve Ott on breakaways. Another key save was when he swatted away a puck destined for the top of the net in mid-air. The only goal he allowed was to Tyler Ennis with nearly two minutes left. Although he was not named one of the three stars of the game, he was by far the best player on the ice.
Most importantly for the Rangers, he looked poised, confident and relaxed. If this is the way Lundqvist will play for the rest of the season now that the contract is no longer a distraction, it is huge for his team. Yes, it’s just one game against a bad team, but Lundqvist is capable of similar performances against anyone at any time. He also needs to hope this catapults the Rangers to a long winning streak.