New York Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan (24) dives in the crease as goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30), of Sweden, protects the net against Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic (17) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
BOSTON - The New York Rangers are pulling away from the defending Stanley Cup champions and the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Henrik Lundqvist made 42 saves for his NHL-leading seventh shutout of the season, and the Rangers beat Boston 3-0 on Tuesday night for their fourth straight victory.
New York leads the East by nine points over the second-place Bruins and remains one point behind Detroit for the most in the NHL. The Rangers have played three fewer games than the Red Wings.
"I think it's important that we keep challenging ourselves," said Lundqvist, who matched his season high for saves. "Yeah, we have a little gap, but we need to keep working on our game. To be No. 1 at the end of the year is not our goal. Our goal is to keep playing until June."
Ryan Callahan scored for the sixth time in four games, and Ryan McDonagh and Artem Anisimov also had goals for the Rangers. It was Lundqvist's 42nd career shutout, and he got help from teammates who blocked 22 shots.
"Oh, he was not going to let a puck in. You could sense that," Rangers coach John Tortorella said, adding that his team seemed tired playing its fourth game in six days. "It was a game we needed him, because we were sloppy. ... We needed him tonight and he was absolutely fantastic."
Tim Thomas made 17 saves for the Bruins, who are 6-7-1 in their last 14 games.
"It's certainly not good enough for the Boston Bruins," said coach Claude Julien, whose team heads to Montreal to start a six-game road trip on Wednesday night. "Somehow we've got to use the road trip here to turn things around."
The Rangers won their second straight game in Boston this season, and Lundqvist has been a big reason why. He also beat the Bruins 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 21, and he is 18-5-2 against them in his career, with six shutouts.
"I just like this building. Nice people," he said with a laugh. Turning serious, he said: "I like the type of games when both teams are battling a lot in front of the nets. ... Knowing that they're not going to give up much, so I personally have to be sharp if I want to help the team to get two points."
Lately, he has been pretty good against everyone: Lundqvist is 7-1 in his last eight games with three shutouts, and he hasn't allowed more than two goals in any of those games.
"No doubt, right now they're playing the best," Julien said. "They're playing like we did last year when we were playing well. Right now that's the identity we're looking for again."
Callahan opened the scoring midway through the first period with a power-play goal when he deflected a pass from Michael Del Zotto past Thomas. That gave the Rangers captain 23 goals for the season, tying the career high he set last season.
McDonagh made it 2-0 with just 12 seconds left in the first. It stayed that way until Anisimov skated in on the right side, faked the crossing pass to Del Zotto and snapped off a quick wrist shot past Thomas' glove to make it 3-0 with 17:07 left in the game. It was Anisimov's 100th career NHL point.
Boston had two good chances to spoil the shutout, first in the second period during a scramble in front of the net that left Milan Lucic celebrating. But referee Dave Jackson never lost sight of the puck that was loose in the crease amid the tangle of bodies, and play continued; replays showed he was correct.
Midway through the third, Dennis Seidenberg's shot seemed to go in, but it was actually caught in the padding at the side of the net.
Notes: Boston is 3-5 since Tim Thomas skipped the team's White House visit.... Fifteen of the previous 18 games between these teams had been decided by one goal. Six went to overtime. ... The Rangers are 50-29-12 against Original Six teams since 2005-06, including 19-5-2 against the Bruins. ... The Bruins signed D Johnny Boychuk to a US$10.1-million, three-year contract extension. ... Rangers F Brandon Dubinsky left the ice after being hit in the face with a deflected puck with about four minutes left. He said he had about 10 stitches and a couple of chipped teeth.