Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist waves to fans during his jersey...

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist waves to fans during his jersey retirement ceremony at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The goal in hockey is to win the Stanley Cup. Henrik Lundqvist fell three victories short of that in 2014, as you no doubt recall.

But the goal in life is to embrace the journey and enrich the lives of those around you along the way. Lundqvist appears to have aced that one.

That was evident before and during an event at Madison Square Garden on Friday night that was 22 years in the making, since the Rangers made him the 21st goaltender taken in the 2000 draft.

The occasion was the retirement of his No. 30 before a game against the Wild, making him the Rangers’ seventh player so honored without winning a Cup and the first of those who wore the uniform in this century.

And just as the others remain embedded in the memories of earlier generations of fans, Cup or no Cup, Lundqvist watched his name and number rise to the Garden’s rafters secure in the knowledge that no one will forget him.

He will not forget any of it, either. During a news conference before the game, I asked him how he feels about his legacy. Was it more about the Cup or more about the quest?

"I think the quest for going after something for so long, it gives you a reason," he said. "It gives you a passion for something, and that’s what I think was the most important thing. For so many years, all the memories, all the big games we played in here, that was part of it.

"Of course we wanted to win. We had a window of really good teams and opportunities to win, and it didn’t happen. But when I think back, it’s all about what happened, not so much what didn’t happen."

That last part is the money quote, for King Henrik and for the rest of us.

Lundqvist said he was grateful for the good teams and good teammates and for the lifelong connections he left with. He had to collect himself after saying that when he initially was approached about being honored, "My first thought was: I can’t wait to come back here and thank everyone."

With that, he teared up, which soon had his wife, Therese, wiping tears from her eyes in the front row.

Mike Richter, the only living Rangers goalie to start for a Cup winner, said that though winning a Cup "defines you to a degree," not winning one hardly defines Lundqvist.

"You can only play as well as you can play, and I have not experienced any goaltenders in my life that can come to the rink and give his team a chance like this guy did," Richter said. "That’s what you’re asked to do, and nobody asked more of himself than him and nobody delivered more than him, in my opinion."

The Kings took a 3-0 series lead in the 2014 Cup Final. The Rangers won Game 4, 2-1, despite being outshot 41-19 overall and 15-1 in the third period.

Los Angeles won Game 5, 3-2, in double overtime, outshooting the Rangers 34-18 from the third period on.

So yes, history will show that the Kings beat the King. But on Friday night, the latter got his due.

Ticket prices on the resale market were astronomical. Both TickPick and TicketIQ reported that it was the most expensive game this NHL season.

Thousands of fans wore No. 30 jerseys, and during the ceremony they repeatedly chanted "Hen-rik, Hen-rik," twice interrupting Lundqvist’s speech.

It ended with him joining four other Rangers with retired numbers — Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves and Richter. Each of them in 1994 won something Lundqvist never did. But on Friday, none of that mattered.

Lundqvist said he struggled with his decision to sign with the Capitals in 2020, weighing wanting to play against wanting never to play for another team. Then a heart condition forced his retirement.

"In the end, the heart said no," Lundqvist said. "I look back it and kind of laugh at how much I struggled to try to go somewhere else.

"But all along, I knew this is the place, and I’m really proud that I played my entire career in New York City, for the New York Rangers."