NEWARK, N.J. -- Asked before the game if he was worried about a potential letdown following an emotional win in Columbus on Friday, New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault didn’t seem concerned.
Not with what is at stake from here on out.
“I can’t see it,” he said.
He was right, the Rangers followed up with yet another inspired effort against one of the league’s most frustrating, grind-you-down teams, shutting out the New Jersey Devils 2-0 at Prudential Center for their third consecutive win. That they mustered that sort of performance even after getting knocked around by a physical, energetic Columbus Blue Jackets team was impressive as well. The Devils were looking for their pound of flesh, too, in a game had plenty of that division rival nastiness right from puck drop, but the Rangers responded with a black-and-blue type game reminiscent of years past.
With ten games remaining in the regular season, the Rangers now trail the Philadelphia Flyers by just one point for second place in the Metropolitan Division standings, though the Flyers hold two games in hand. The two teams clash on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, but the Rangers aren’t looking ahead.
They’ve taken care of business, earning all six possible points from their three-game road trip, by focusing on the immediate task right in front of them.
“I think it’s sometimes easier to focus on the right things when the games are more important,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who passed Eddie Giacomin as the club’s all-time shutout lead with the 50th of his career. “You don’t allow yourself to think about the end result, you think about the process.”
Lundqvist has been stellar of late and other stars are raising their bars of play as well, with Rick Nash a dynamic force in the team’s recent winning streak. The 6-4, 213-pound Nash tallied twice in the team’s 8-4 win against Ottawa Tuesday night and delivered an absolutely stunning performance Thursday in his return home to Columbus -- arguably his best game as a New York Ranger. He built upon those two performances to score the game’s first goal of the night, beating Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur while the future Hall of Famer was temporarily distracted midway through the second period.
With three goals in the last three games, Nash leads the team with 23 on the season.
The team’s blue line stepped up in a big way as well, holding the Devils to only 11 shots through the first 40 minutes of play and, save for a frenzied Devils’ surge in the third, limiting the amount of work for Lundqvist.
“We talked about finding the same game we played in Columbus,” said defenseman Ryan McDonagh. “It wasn’t pretty in the third by any means ... but the most important thing is we stayed to our game plan, didn’t try to do too much and just played well positionally.”