On yet another occasion when Henrik Lundqvist deeply enmeshed himself in the Rangers' heritage, the heritage was there to watch. It was fitting that he tied the franchise record for most playoff victories while Mike Richter, who shares the mark, and Ed Giacomin were in the stands.
"It's a proud feeling when you're up there with those guys," he said after the 3-2 overtime victory in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday night, the 41st postseason win in his career. "There are so many great goaltenders that played for this organization. Earlier this year, I beat a couple records, and it means a lot to me. This organization, I've been part of it for nine years, and I'm going to be part of it for a long time, I hope. Yeah, I'm just really proud to be out there with those guys and hopefully can keep it going a little more."
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Lundqvist is sure to join those two in the rafters someday. Having become the all-time regular-season leader in wins and shutouts this season, he is a lock to be the third Rangers goalie to have his number retired.
For now, entering Game 5 in Montreal tonight, he is one victory from going to the Stanley Cup Final, where Giacomin (and Gilles Villemure) brought the Rangers in 1972 and Richter delivered them in 1994.
Like both of them, Lundqvist came up through the Rangers' ranks (Giacomin technically came from Providence of the AHL in a deal that involved Suffolk Hall of Famer Buzzy Deschamps). And like both Richter and Giacomin, he is one of the most beloved figures in Rangers history.
Lundqvist keeps earning the affection. He inspired the crowd and his team with his poise during the Canadiens' furious display in the third period Sunday with the score tied. He was a bit fortunate that Alex Galchenyuk's late shot hit the knob of his stick and then the crossbar before it bounced on the friendly side of the goal line.
"I wasn't sure if I got enough of the shot," he said. "But again, they have some skilled players that are going to make some plays. That time, I had that [luck], but there have been some weird goals. That's the way it goes. It's a quick game."
As usual, it was far more skill than luck for Lundqvist. Stephane Matteau, another all-time popular Ranger who was at the game, said the other day, "I think he has plastic glass behind him at times because he looks so good."
Lundqvist made another contribution to Rangers history on Sunday, aside from improving his postseason record to 41-44. He got the first playoff assist by a Rangers goalie since Richter did it on Esa Tikkanen's goal in Game 5 against the Devils on May 11, 1997. He began the play that ended with Derick Brassard's goal with 56 seconds left in the second period.
"I didn't do much in that, but it feels good," he said. "We've talked about me playing the puck more to help the 'D' out. I think that part has been really good."
The best part for him is being on the verge of making it to his first Final. "It's going to be a tough game. I look forward to that challenge," Lundqvist said. "It's exciting, too, to know that you're one game away. I mean, you have to motivate yourself to get to a level where you're helping the team, and that's pretty good motivation right there."