For Henrik Lundqvist, the focus is not on recording shutouts. Instead, the emphasis is just on playing well — individually and as a team.
Shutouts, he reasoned, are satisfying byproducts of everyone perfectly executing the game plan.
“Every goalie, you feel good about your game when you get a shutout,” Lundqvist said after making a season-high 35 saves for his 60th career shutout to lead the New York Rangers to a 5-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night. “Every game you’re looking for the complete game (where) you don’t give up goals, obviously. It’s a good feeling when you do that.”
Jimmy Vesey had a goal and two assists, and Dan Girardi, Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes also scored for New York, which has won seven of its first 10 games.
Chris Kreider, who missed the previous four games due to neck spasms, had two assists as 11 Rangers players recorded at least one point.
“We’re making plays when they’re there,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “It’s allowing us to be effective and right now we’re scoring on chances which helps, for sure.”
Jake Allen started in goal for St. Louis and allowed four goals on 19 shots until he was replaced by Carter Hutton after Zuccarello made it 4-0 with 7:05 remaining in the second. Hutton stopped eight of the nine shots he faced. The Blues lost for the third time in five games.
“That’s a hell of a team,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “They gave us a hell of a lesson. They are playing great team hockey and they just exposed any weakness we had. They exposed it. They’ve done it to a few teams.”
The Rangers led 2-0 after goals 1:34 apart midway through the first period. Giradi opened the scoring 9:37 in with a 4-on-4 goal at 9:37 as his shot ricocheted off the skate of the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko and bounced off the ice and past Allen’s glove side.
Vesey then doubled the lead 1:34 later on the power play as he skated down the slot and snapped a pass from Derek Stepan past Allen’s stick for his sixth of the season.
“I’m starting to get really confident out there and try some things I might not have tried a couple games ago,” Vesey said. “I think confidence is everything in this game and right now it’s high. … I am riding that.”
Nash scored his fifth of the season 6:18 into the second to extend the advantage to 3-0. Vesey began the sequence by intercepting Kevin Shattenkirk’s clearing pass in the neutral zone, then carried the puck into the offensive zone where he found Nash, who banked a shot off Allen from behind the net.
Zuccarello’s power play tap-in 6:37 later made it 4-0, and prompted Hitchcock to replace Allen with Hutton.
Hayes got one past Hutton 5:07 later as he finished a passing sequence with Vesey and J.T. Miller with his third of the season.
Lundqvist, who entered the game with a .901 save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average, wasn’t consistently tested by the Blues, but was strong when called upon and got his first shutout of the season. Lundqvist’s toughest save was a sprawling pad stop on Robby Fabbri late in the first period.
“I’ve been feeling good the last few weeks,” Lundqvist said. “This was a game where I was more involved.”
The Rangers entered the game leading the NHL in goals per game at 3.89 and were tied with Philadelphia for the most goals scored (35). The Blues came in fourth in goals allowed per game (2.22) and tied for fifth in total goals allowed (20).
New York finished the game 2 for 5 on the man advantage, while the Blues were unable to convert on their two chances.
“Right now the guys are finding the options and getting some real good looks on it,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of his team’s power play, which is converting 23.7 percent of its chances.