NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist is enduring an inconsistent this season. A lot of that has to do with a porous defense but the goaltender at times hasn't looked like the five-time Vezina Trophy finalist he has been during his career.
On Tuesday, Lundqvist took another step toward rounding into form and it may have been the biggest step of the season.
Lundqvist turned aside 43 shots and just about stole the game as the New York Rangers topped the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 at Madison Square Garden to give coach Alain Vigneault his 600th victory.
The Ducks recorded 32 shots through the first two periods but only Jakob Silfverberg's goal in the second period off a Rangers turnover got past Lundqvist. He made 12 more saves in the third period as Michael Grabner scored twice in the final period to turn a 2-1 nailbiter into a three-goal victory.
Lundqvist was pulled twice in his past nine starts. In the other seven, he stopped 212 of 223 shots for a save percentage of .951. The Ducks' attack was more about quantity than quality but Lundqvist made his fair share of difficult stops while the Rangers used a counter-attack to get on the scoreboard.
"I didn't expect this game," said Lundqvist, referring to the fact the Ducks had 37 total shots in their previous two games. "I went into the first period expecting a 20-shot game and then right away they set the tone by throwing pucks at me.
"The big thing for us is how we want to play in front, how I want to play and the defense. The way we worked together today I thought was key. (The defense) boxed out so well. There were so many shots from far out. The way they battled in front to help me there was the key for me and the team."
The Rangers (34-18-1) won their third in a row, and while they hold the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference, it is also the fourth-best record in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division. They are four points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have a game in hand, for second place in the division and home-ice advantage in a first-round series.
If the Rangers continue to see this level of play from Lundqvist, the standings will take care of themselves.
"It was awesome," Rangers left winger J.T. Miller said. "He gave us a chance to win. That's huge in a game like tonight where I thought they brought their 'A' game. They came out flying, but he kept us in there and we found a way to capitalize on opportunities."
Oscar Lindberg gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 4:01 in the first period largely because Ducks failed in the one area the Rangers excelled -- protecting the front of the net. Pavel Buchnevich hit an unfettered Lindberg on the doorstep, leaving Ducks goaltender John Gibson no chance on the point-blank shot.
Mats Zuccarello made it 2-0 on a similar play as the Ducks lost track of Zuccarello, who buried a loose puck from a sharp angle before Gibson could push across.
Gibson turned in more highlight-reel saves than Lundqvist as he made two amazing second-period stops on a Grabner breakaway and a Jimmy Vesey 3-on-1 chance with the score 2-0. It gave the Ducks time to cut the lead in half but they couldn't solve Lundqvist again.
"We've got to be happy with all the things we did offensively," Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "But we gave up some grade-A chances and Gibby kept us in it in the second period when it could have been 5-1. We controlled the pace of play but we had major breakdowns and we gave up grade-A chances so that's got to change."
The Ducks (28-17-10) lost the first three contests of their six-game road trip (0-2-1) and four of five overall (1-3-1).
"We did a lot more dictating than we have in the last few games and that's a good thing for our group," Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "We just didn't do enough to get it by Lundqvist."
Getting outshot by nearly a 3-to-1 margin isn't a recipe for continued success, but if the Rangers are to climb the standings and offer any resistance during the playoffs, Lundqvist will have to play like this more often than not.
"There is no doubt that (Lundqvist) was on top of his game right from the start," Vigneault said. "We were able to get a couple odd-man rushes that we were able to bury and we won the game."
-- Ducks D Sami Vatanen (lower body) missed his second straight game.
-- Rangers D Marc Staal played after he battled through the flu during the team's most recent game Sunday.
-- Rangers C Kevin Hayes was back in the lineup after a five-game absence with a lower-body injury. He had one assist in 16:35 of ice time.
-- Rangers LW Matt Puempel, D Adam Clendening and RW Brandon Pirri were healthy scratches.