Amid the uneasiness and uncertainty about the severity of Henrik Lundqvist’s neck injury hanging over the Rangers on Wednesday, backup goaltender Cam Talbot was thrust into the fray and played suitably after allowing two first-period goals in a 3-2 victory over the Bruins.
The Rangers didn’t force Talbot to bail them out against Boston because of their speed and puck control, but Talbot did make seven key saves in a scoreless third period to preserve the lead and stopped 18 of 20 shots overall to pick up his fifth win in 12 appearances this season.
The plan as of Tuesday’s practice, which Lundqvist missed for what was deemed a maintenance day, was for Lundqvist to start Wednesday before it was revealed he was day-to-day with a non-concussion-related neck injury; he took a puck to the throat Saturday night against Carolina, finished the game, and played Monday against Florida. Talbot, though, was told Tuesday night to be ready and found out Wednesday morning he’d draw his first start since Jan. 15.
“I really didn’t have to do a whole lot; the guys did a great job in front of me,” Talbot said after the game. “(Boston) didn’t get too many Grade-A quality chances, even on their power play. Our guys didn’t let a lot of shots get to the net, so a lot of credit goes to them.”
The team didn’t provide an update on Lundqvist’s status on Thursday’s off day. It will practice at 11 a.m. Friday before flying to Nashville for Saturday’s game and returning for a Sunday tilt against Dallas at the Garden. After Wednesday’s win, Alain Vigneault acknowledged it was “possible” Lundqvist wouldn’t make the trip to Nashville. If so, Talbot would start consecutive games for the first time this season.
The second-year backup excelled last season with a 1.64 goals against average in 21 appearances and has bounced back from a slow start this season, earning a one-year, $ 1.45 million contract extension in December.
“Like I’ve said many times, he’s very calm in there, very composed,” captain Ryan McDonagh said of Talbot. “He’s good at playing the puck and continuing to play in the right spots. Even if he gives up a goal, he stays in the zone and continues to battle. For us, it’s no different if Henrik or Talbot is in there.”
While that last sentence is a stretch, it is indicative of the confidence the team has when Talbot is between the pipes. He’s not Lundqvist, but the Rangers don’t lose too much with Talbot in goal.
“Mentally strong,” is how Vigneault described Talbot Wednesday. “He came out and gave us a chance to win. That’s what we expect of him.”
It’ll be expected again if he starts Saturday, even against the Predators, who have been one of the best teams in the NHL this season. For now, Talbot will wait to see how Lundqvist progresses and get himself ready if needed, as per usual.
“It’s the life of a backup,” said defenseman Marc Staal, who didn’t feel the need to talk to Talbot before Wednesday’s game. “You never know when you’ll get the call. Everyone in this room has the utmost confidence in Talbs. He’s shown it over the last couple years, the talent he has and the way he can play.”
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