Tuesday, November 15, 2011
King Henrik's take? Not too bad, Brad
By Katie Strang ESPNNewYork.com
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- As many times as Henrik Lundqvist has worn the crown as King of the New York Rangers, he seemed pleased to see teammate Brad Richards proudly donning the Broadway hat following the team's seventh straight win.
The star center, who inked a nine-year, $60 million deal this July, scored his second game winner of the season to boost the Rangers 4-2 over the Islanders on Tuesday night and earn the team's makeshift MVP trophy.
Brad Richards' late goal Tuesday gave the Blueshirts their longest win streak in two years.
"That's why we signed him for nine years," said a smiling Lundqvist. "That's exactly why we signed him."
Lundqvist was outstanding in a 31-save effort to help keep the team afloat during an up-and-down game at Nassau Coliseum, but it was Richards who delivered late in the third to keep the Rangers' seven-game skein alive.
After Brandon Dubinsky intercepted Josh Bailey's clearing attempt at the blue line, Richards blasted a slap shot from the left circle at 15:05 to snap a 2-2 tie.
Richards' deciding goal helped power the Rangers to their longest winning streak since October 2009.
"A guy like that has the tendency to step up at the right time. It's not a coincidence," Lundqvist said. "I think his focus is good when it comes down to the final minutes and you need that extra play. That's great to see."
The Rangers have been beneficiaries of a well-balanced attack during their recent stretch, but Richards is showing he can provide what the team sought when courting him this summer.
Big plays in big moments.
"Richie had some big plays for us early on in these games," coach John Tortorella said. "I thought that was probably one of his better games with the puck in terms of how hard he was on the puck."
Richards began the game on a line with Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko but was then shifted to the second line to play with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. Neither trio included star sniper Marian Gaborik, the player he was targeted to play with before the ink was even dry on his monster deal this summer, but Richards has found ways to contribute regardless.
Recording his eighth point in as many games -- on Tuesday, with the game on the line -- Richards continued to prove he is as advertised: a special player who won't shrink from the spotlight or the big stage.
"We got the job done again, somehow," Richards said, modestly. "We'll take it."