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NEWARK, N.J. -- Before the Eastern Conference finals began, New York Rangers center Brad Richards said he was looking forward to watching his goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, go up against future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils.
Three games in and he is getting his money's worth.
Lundqvist was sensational in earning his second shutout of the series, making 36 saves against a relentless, dynamic Devils attack to boost the Rangers to a 3-0 win and 2-1 series lead Saturday at Prudential Center.
The Rangers needed his best, too.
|Henrik Lundqvist went all out to stop Ilya Kovalchuk.|
The Devils came in waves, with breakaways and odd-man rushes while carrying play for the first half of the game. But where the Rangers couldn't stop the onslaught, Lundqvist did.
"From the start of the game he was sharp. Seemed like he wasn't going to let one by him all night," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "He was great and I think that gives us some extra jump because it gives us an opportunity to get one back for him."
Lundqvist, a contender for the Vezina and Hart trophies, made 11 saves in a lopsided first period before ratcheting up his game in the second.
His most stunning save of the afternoon came just 46 seconds into the first period, when he dove to deny Devils sniper Ilya Kovalchuk on a breakaway to preserve a scoreless tie.
Lundqvist smothered Kovalchuk's sharp wrist shot with his left arm on the ice.
"I went down and had to make a glove save on my side. And that's not really the way I want to make a save. A little lucky there that he didn't roof it," Lundqvist said of the play. "But I'm happy I made the save and hopefully it sparked the guys a little bit."
Sixty-five seconds later, Rangers coach John Tortorella called a pivotal timeout, and it seemed to rattle his team out of its stupor. The Rangers gained traction in the second before rallying for a three-goal third period that seemed eerily reminiscent of Game 1 on Monday.
Defenseman Dan Girardi's power-play marker at 3:19 got the Rangers on the board, and rookie Chris Kreider contributed with an insurance goal less than two minutes later -- his fifth of the playoffs. Captain Ryan Callahan scored his first goal in seven games on an empty-netter with 2:13 remaining.
It was the least they could do to reward Lundqvist for a superior effort that held the Rangers in the game.
"It's a bit of our personality," Tortorella said of his team's ability to feed off Lundqvist's ferocious battle level. "That's a bit of who we are. And I think Henrik displays that, how he does compete. And he's a great competitor as far as his preparation and as far as what he does for this hockey club."
It was a familiar refrain from the coach. Similarly, Lundqvist's teammates have run out of fresh adjectives and superlatives to define his play.
His opponents haven't.
Devils coach Pete DeBoer, visibly frustrated by his team's inability to score despite myriad chances, praised Lundqvist.
"I think their goalie was the difference," he said.
When told of DeBoer's compliment, Lundqvist smiled but steered a neutral course.
"I'm really happy we won. That means so much to me, to win every game here, and it's so important to me and to the group," he said. "But on Monday [in Game 4] it's not going to mean anything. You have to start over and earn that respect again.
"And, hopefully, you say the same thing after that game."