Thursday, October 13, 2005

Inside Blueshirts

Lundqvist Notches First NHL Win: Rookie netminder Henrik Lundqvist recorded his first NHL win in his second start for the Rangers, finishing with 20 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Devils Thursday night. The 23-year-old Swedish product was selected by New York in the seventh round of the 2000 Draft. He starred overseas back home, lifting Frolunda to a championship in '04-05. Lundqvist recently played for Team Sweden at the World Championship, guiding them to a fourth place finish.

In net against the Devils for his second career start (made 24 saves in 3-2 OT loss to NJ Saturday), Lundqvist allowed a Brian Gionta rebound goal early in the third period to spoil a shutout bid. However, the first-year goalie was steady in picking up win number one at Madison Square Garden against an archrival that had owned the Blueshirts recently. It was only the club's fourth win against the Devils in the last 42 regular season meetings (4-24-13-1).

With his team ahead 3-0 in the second, Lundqvist made his best save of the night robbing Devil shorthanded specialist John Madden on a breakaway with a nice glove save to deny Madden's backhand deke. He would make a similar save late in the contest on Scott Gomez to help backstop the Rangers to their first win on home ice against New Jersey since a 4-3 OT triumph back on October 17, 2001.

"It felt really good," Lundqvist told reporters after being named the game's First Star. "I felt so happy to get that first win."

With Kevin Weekes sidelined with a groin strain, Lundqvist should make his second consecutive start Saturday night against Atlanta. Recently recalled former 2004 first round pick Al Montoya will backup.

Jagr Ties Mikita: With his fourth power play tally of the season on a blistering wrist shot shortside by Martin Brodeur, Jaromir Jagr tied Stan Mikita with his 541st career NHL goal for second place all-time among European goalscorers. Jagr trails only Jari Kurri, who finished his Hall of Fame career with 601. Jagr and Mikita are tied for 23rd on the NHL career goals list. Jagr is off to a quick start with six points (4-2-6) in five games this season.

Kondratiev Records First NHL Point: Rookie defenseman Maxim Kondratiev picked up his first NHL point when he assisted on Martin Rucinsky's third of the season to open the scoring Thursday. Kondratiev was acquired from Toronto as part of the Brian Leetch deal on March 3, 2004. He logged 17:38 of ice-time, registering one shot and was an impressive plus-three for the night. It was the 22-year-old Russian's best game so far as a Ranger, which could be a good sign for the organization.

Betts and Nieminen Tally First Goals As Rangers: On what was a strong performance for the Blueshirts, both Blair Betts and Ville Nieminen scored their first Ranger goals against NJ. Nieminen struck first to make it 2-0 when he benefited from a forced turnover by Jed Ortmeyer. In on Brodeur, Nieminen backhanded the puck by the Devil goalie for the Rangers second goal in 17 seconds during a three-goal first. It's safe to say the former Flame made the most out of his 12 shifts (7:23), also registering two hits.

Betts was acquired along with Greg Moore and Jamie McLennan (signed with Florida) in exchange for Chris Simon and a seventh round pick on March 6, 2004. He tallied the third goal putting home a Martin Straka rebound, putting a stamp on a terrific opening stanza against a quality opponent. In 12:30 of ice-time, Betts had four shots, won eight of 13 faceoffs and logged 1:38 shorthanded in helping kill all four New Jersey power plays.

Ward Registers Assist: Jason Ward picked up an assist on Nieminen's goal. He forced a neutral zone turnover which led directly to the goal. The ex-Canadien had a particularly strong game, earning coach Tom Renney's trust with 15:30 of ice, including some diligent penalty killing work (2:08). He led the Rangers with four takeaways and won the only two draws he took in a yeoman effort.

Ortmeyer Earns Assist: Jed Ortmeyer had an assist on the second goal of the night. In typical fashion, the gritty right wing outworked two Devils to create a turnover setting up Nieminen for the goal. In just 14 shifts, the popular Blueshirt had a hit and three takeaways.

Prucha Gets First Line Look: First-year player Petr Prucha was given a chance by Renney on the top line with Jagr and Michael Nylander. In just his second NHL game, the former 2002 eighth round pick logged 14:52 including an extensive look on the power play (3:34). For the game, he had one shot and a couple of near misses that might have produced his first NHL goal. One was a redirect attempt and the other was a shot fired over the net. Prucha just might have shown enough for the coaching staff to keep him on the first unit.

Rangers Continue Homestand Saturday: The Rangers (2-1-2) continue their four-game homestand against Atlanta (2-2-0) Saturday night at 7 PM. They also will host Florida Monday and the Islanders Wednesday.

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