Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

TAMPA, Fla. - Of course the Rangers survived Tuesday night. It's what they do when facing playoff elimination.

And of course the man most responsible was Henrik Lundqvist. It's what he does in such situations.

Sure, King Henrik got plenty of help from his court, notably a transcendent performance from Derick Brassard and his linemates, Rick Nash and J.T. Miller.

But without what he did in the first two periods, the Rangers would not have taken a lead into the third, when they took control with five goals en route to a 7-3 victory over the Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Game 7 is Friday night at the Garden, where the Rangers last lost a Game 7 . . . well, never, come to think of it.

The Rangers themselves certainly appreciated Lundqvist saving them when they were being outplayed early, to the tune of a 16-7 shots-on-goal deficit after one period and 27-12 late in the second.

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It was Lundqvist, not one of the big scorers, who wore the honorary Broadway Hat in the visitors' dressing room.

Lundqvist is 15-3 in elimination games since 2012, and even though he did give up three goals Tuesday night, he has a 1.47 goals-against average and .954 save percentage in such games.

About those three goals: He admitted he lost focus late in the third when he found himself looking forward to Game 7 while Game 6 still was being played.

"They kept coming hard and they had a lot of energy and we weathered the storm a little bit," Lundqvist said of the first two periods, after which the Rangers improbably had a 2-1 lead.

"You see how fast they can create stuff, create chances. You have to be on your toes. If I'm not up there in my focus, it's really a tough game. I felt like I was in a good place. I had to make a couple of saves early on.

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"I felt like I was in the game. But you try not to overthink it. I think the last couple of games, I am right there where I want to be. My focus is right and I made a couple of adjustments after Game 3. I feel like it's a lot better for me."

Remember Game 3? He gave up six goals for a second consecutive game, and his postgame demeanor had many fans and journalists worried about his state of mind. He admitted to doing some soul-searching before Game 4, and he's been just fine ever since.

Two of his biggest saves came in the first period. On one, the top of his stick deflected a point-blank shot by former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan.

"It's just a reaction," he said. "It happens sometimes. You don't have time to get your blocker up and your stick is there. I'll take it."

Then he stopped Tampa Bay star Steve Stamkos with his left pad. "That was a desperation move," he said. "I was late coming across. It definitely felt good to make that save."

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There were others -- a sliding stop of Tyler Johnson's shot, a pad save on former Ranger Brian Boyle.

Lundqvist said the Lightning is a "high-risk, sometimes high-rewards" team that made mistakes that benefited the Rangers.

"They're so aggressive sometimes," he said. "It's a fine line there because they can definitely score, but I think we took advantage of some misplays in the third."

Naturally, some of the Lightning's aggressiveness was a function of its frustration about not getting anything past the Rangers' goalie through more cautious means.

Tampa Bay must be wondering what became of the Lundqvist on whom they scored so many goals in the regular season and so many more in Games 2 and 3.

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"Hankie kept us in it," Miller said.

Of course.