Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers defends his net during the...

Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers defends his net during the second period against the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amerant Bank Arena on Saturday in Sunrise, Fla. Credit: Getty Images/Joel Auerbach

SUNRISE, Fla.

A long time ago, early in Henrik Lundqvist’s career, I was covering a Rangers practice when he went post-to-post with lightning-quick speed to make one of his typically dazzling saves that he did not limit to game action. I remember turning to a fellow media member and proclaiming, “Hank’s going to win Stanley Cups for this franchise.”

Stanley Cups.

Plural.

Well, we all know how that went. Lundqvist had a fantastic career, a Hall of Fame career. But Mike Richter remains the lone Rangers goalie to win a Cup since 1940.

Lundqvist is part of a star-studded group of netminders to not lift the Cup while on Broadway that includes — but is not limited to — Eddie Giacomin, Gump Worsley, Jacques Plante, John Vanbiesbrouck and John Davidson.

Where Igor Shesterkin ultimately fits in obviously has yet to be determined.

The 28-year-old Russian has played four full seasons for the Rangers, led them to the Eastern Conference final twice in three seasons and won the Vezina Trophy once as the NHL’s top goalie.

This much is clear: He seems headed to having his No. 31 hang in the Madison Square Garden rafters alongside Giacomin’s No. 1, Lundqvist’s No. 30 and Richter’s No. 35.

But his latest season ended in disappointment through absolutely no fault of his own as the Rangers were eliminated with a 2-1 loss to the Panthers in Game 6 of the conference finals on Saturday night at Amerant Bank Arena.

Shesterkin did everything he could to keep the Rangers within striking distance against the Panthers, who, for the better part of the series, dominated the attempts.

“He was obviously outstanding,” captain Jacob Trouba said in the hushed dressing room on Saturday. “We’re not even in this position without him. I don’t think anybody in this room thinks otherwise. Outstanding. He’s been the best player on our team all playoffs. Probably all year.”

“I thought Igor Shesterkin was just lights out,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “He was brilliant in this series.”

The sublime Shesterkin finished the postseason 10-6 with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. Against the Panthers, he posted a 2.25 GAA and a .935 save percentage.

Like many of the Mets’ pitchers through the 1970s, he could sue for lack of run support.

“He had a heck of a series,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “I thought Igor was outstanding. We controlled some of the volume and brought some of the chances down, but at the end of the day, they’re still a dangerous team and they’re capable of creating. You’re sitting there at 1-0 and he had to make a couple of really big saves to keep it 1-0 and allow us to continue to push. I thought he was excellent.

“He was fantastic the entire series.”

Lundqvist spent a good portion of his career, especially during the John Tortorella years, knowing he had to win 2-1 and 3-2 games. His lone trip to the Stanley Cup Final, at age 31, ended in one of the tightest, closest five-game series imaginable as the Rangers fell to Jonathan Quick’s Kings. Lundqvist, who also backstopped his team to conference finals in 2012 and 2015, allowed 15 goals to the Kings and the Rangers lost three times in overtime, twice in double overtime.

Those Rangers, under coach Alain Vigneault, scored 218 goals in the regular season.

These Rangers notched 282 regular-season goals.

The postseason is obviously a different animal defensively, and the Panthers were able to stymie a good portion of the Rangers’ best offensive weapons in Mika Zibanejad (two assists), Chris Kreider (one shorthanded goal, one assist) and Artemi Panarin (one six-on-five goal, three assists). The Rangers’ power play was a dismal 1-for-15 in the six-game series.

But the point is, the Rangers’ roster theoretically has the offensive talent needed to meld with Shesterkin’s elite goaltending for a successful playoff run.

So despite the disappointing heartbreak of winning the Presidents’ Trophy but not getting a chance to play for the Cup, all should not be gloom and doom for the Rangers.

Many Rangers spoke of learning from the experience and being highly motivated next season.

That should be the case, though with apologies to Mark Messier, nothing is ever guaranteed in the NHL.

Lundqvist learned that the hard way, never getting another chance to play in a Cup Final.

Shesterkin still has plenty of time to match Richter.

Or to join Lundqvist, Giacomin et al.

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