Rangers edge Islanders in frigid Yankee Stadium
By Jim Slater, AFP
January 31, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist shrugged off Olympic terrorism concerns as easily as he did the bitter cold Wednesday in leading the New York Rangers to victory at baseball's famed Yankee Stadium.
The 31-year-old Swedish Olympic goaltender made 30 saves to spark the Rangers over the New York Islanders 2-1 in an outdoor National Hockey League clash before 50,027 chilly spectators.
“I wasn't concerned about the cold. It wasn't an issue at all,” Lundqvist said. “It was a little cold but it was awesome.”
Ten days before the league shuts down its season and sends many of its stars to the Sochi Winter Olympics, the goalie nicknamed “King Henrik” said the Olympics were in his thoughts but his focus would not be on terrorist threats.
“The Olympics is definitely in the back of my mind,” Lundqvist said. “The closer you get the more you think about it. It's going to be a great tournament.
“When it comes to the threat when we get there, I think every Olympics has some sort of threat. When you are there you tend not to focus on it. You focus on what you have to do and enjoy your time there.”
Lundqvist stopped 10 shots in the first period, 14 of 15 he faced in the second and all six he saw in the third period, improving to 3-0 outdoors, having beaten New Jersey in the same venue Sunday and won at Philadelphia in 2012.
“It was exciting. It was fun to play,” Lundqvist said. “It was an awesome experience. I will look back on it with a smile on my face. It's a game you will remember.”
The game began at 22 degrees (minus-5.5 Celsius) and temperatures dropped as the night wore on with winds whipping flags atop the iconic Bronx ballpark.
“We knew the conditions were going to be challenging. It was a little bit nippy out there,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We can play through cold I guess.”
Brock Nelson opened the scoring for the Islanders with 87 seconds remaining in the second period, but Rangers left wing Benoit Pouliot answered 40 seconds later to level at 1-1 after two periods.
“Our response after their score really helped us in that third period,” said Vigneault. “We had better looks. We had good quality chances.”
Daniel Carcillo scored the winning goal 4:36 into the third period. The Rangers shut down the Islanders from there with tough checks and shot blocking.
“It takes a lot of courage to do those things on a night like this,” Vigneault said.
Lundqvist improved to 19-18 on the season while the Islanders Evgeny Nabokov, who made 32 saves, fell to 9-9.
“It's a great experience,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “You don't want to be on this side of it.”
Three outdoor games in five days have drawn a total of more than 150,000 spectators. Add more than 100,000 for a Detroit-Toronto outdoor clash on January 1 in Michigan and it's easy to see why NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is happy.
“It has a been an incredible month of special events,” he said. “This is a season I think we'll all remember as being very special.”
After March games outdoors at Chicago and in a domed Vancouver venue, the NHL will begin 2015 outdoor planning.
“We don't know what we're going to do next year,” Bettman said. “We haven't had any serious discussions.”
The Rangers took their 29th triumph in 55 games for 61 points, second-best in the Metropolitan Division.
The Islanders suffered their 35th defeat in 56 games, staying last in the Metropolitan Division on 50 points.