The New York Rangers grabbed the lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals thanks to a brilliant performance by their star goaltender. The top-seeded Blueshirts will try to take control of this best- of-seven series when they visit the Ottawa Senators for tonight's Game 4 at Scotiabank Place.
The Atlantic Division champions allowed the eighth-seeded Senators to earn a split of the first two games in New York, but Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made sure his club was able to do at least the same in Ottawa. After the Rangers dropped a 3-2 overtime decision in Saturday's Game 2, Lundqvist shut the door on Monday night in Canada's capital city, stopping all 39 shots sent his way in a 1-0 victory for the Rangers.
It was the first shutout of these playoffs for Lundqvist and the fourth of his postseason career. The potential Vezina Trophy candidate had eight shutouts during the 2011-12 regular season.
The only goal of Game 3 came moments after Lundqvist made a save on a Colin Greening tip and his follow up on the rebound. A blast from the right point by Dan Girardi went wide of the net, but it came to the right side of the net where Brian Boyle backhanded it in to score for the third straight game at the 7:35 mark.
From there, Lundqvist made the slim margin stand as he turned aside 14 shots in the third, including a tough stop on a Kyle Turris one-timer down low in the final minute with Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson on the bench for an extra attacker. Lundqvist made a couple of more stops before the horn sounded.
Boyle has three goals in this series and eight in his last 12 games dating back to the regular season. The unlikely playoff hero heaped praise on his netminder after the Game 3 win.
"That's a good club and I think we did a pretty good job keeping them to the outside and blocking shots," said Boyle. "But, once again, as has been the story all year is the man (Lundqvist) backing us up. He's been doing that all year and it still amazes us."
Meanwhile, Anderson did all he could for the Sens, stopping 22-of-23 shots, but it was not enough to give Ottawa the 2-1 series lead. The Senators are now in the hole and will have to rally if they want to win a playoff series for the first time since going to the Cup Finals in 2007.
"We played a really good game tonight," said Anderson. "We did what we wanted to do, got a lot of pucks on net and created some traffic. But we ran into a hot goaltender and just couldn't get it past him."
Ottawa played the game without captain Daniel Alfredsson, who suffered a concussion in Game 2 after he was elbowed in the head by New York's Carl Hagelin. The Rangers forward served the first of a three-game suspension for the hit on Monday, while Alfredsson is doubtful for tonight's contest.
Forward Chris Kreider took Hagelin's spot in the New York lineup and in just over 11 minutes he had one shot. It was the NHL debut for the highly-touted Boston College prospect.
Ottawa was also down a player in Game 3 due to suspension, as forward Matt Carkner served his one-game ban for instigating a fight with Boyle in Game 2.
The Rangers are trying to win their first playoff round since ousting New Jersey in the 2008 conference quarterfinals. The Blueshirts have lost four straight postseason series since beating the Devils four years ago.
Game 5 of this set is scheduled for Saturday night in New York City.