Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 3/15/14
This was a night on which the Rangers returned to wearing blue collars rather than the white gloves they had sported in losing dreary affairs this week in Carolina and Minnesota. This was a night on which they dug in against a much bigger and stronger team, sacrificing their bodies throughout an essential 4-2 victory over the Jets for which coach Alain Vigneault broke up the struggling Brad Richards-Martin St. Louis combination. But even as Carl Hagelin was awarded the Broadway Hat after recording his first career hat trick, this was a night on which the Rangers needed Henrik Lundqvist to be not only at his best, but most competitive against a team that barreled toward him and his net with impunity. And the Blueshirts got the best from Lundqvist, who shut down the Jets after allowing an admittedly upsetting marginal goal very early in the match that allowed Winnipeg to take a 2-1 lead. In doing so, the King tied Mike Richter’s franchise record of 301 career victories. “I was really upset after that second goal and tried to push myself to be a little bit better,” Lundqvist said, referring to the Andrew Ladd left wing drive that beat him up top to the short side at 3:26, just 53 seconds after Dustin Byfuglien had scored on a rebound. “After that goal, it was about how you respond. “I’m happy with the way I responded and with the way the team responded.” Lundqvist was aggressive throughout the match, battling for loose pucks around the net, using his stick for poke-checks with chaos and Jets converging from all angles. “I had to be a little bit more aggressive,” said the goaltender, who will shoot for the record on Sunday afternoon when the Sharks come to the Garden. “It was a mindset.” The Rangers had scored only 11 goals in the five games they had played since the trade deadline, with only four coming at five-on-five. The Richards-St. Louis partnership had been dry, each collecting one assist on a five-on-three power play goal. And so, Vigneault could no longer wait; not now. “[That combination] hasn’t had the impact we hoped it was going to have,” Vigneault said before the match. “We’ve tried for five games. I’ve been patient. It’s probably time to try something else.” St. Louis (No. 26) shifted onto the Sixes-Wild Line with Derick Brassard (No. 16) and Mats Zuccarello (No. 36). Richards moved between Hagelin and Benoit Pouliot. “When things don’t go well there are always going to be changes here and there,” St. Louis said. “You adapt. You have to be able to adjust. It’s the NHL, so they are quality players.” The winger did not score a goal, but set up Hagelin for the game-winner in front at 19:52 of the second with a gorgeous backhand feed as he came from behind the net after bolting out of the penalty box to corral a long Kevin Klein clear beneath the goal line. “Being able to contribute in that way to win makes me feel a little bit good about myself,” St. Louis said after the match in which all four Rangers’ goals, including one from Chris Kreider, came at five-on-five. The Rangers were credited with 24 blocked shots — six by the indefatigable Dan Girardi — but likely were shortchanged in the arithmetic. They killed four penalties, including a pair late in the second less than four minutes apart preceding Hagelin’s winner, in stretching their streak to 20 straight over the last seven games. One Blueshirt after another played with the urgency required at this time of year, and none more so than their masked man.
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