Henrik Lundqvist told himself with two minutes to go that he would have to make one or two more big saves Saturday night before the Rangers could secure the victory they needed to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
He was right. With not much more than a minute left and the Rangers leading by one goal, he found himself making what he called a “desperation” left pad save on the Canadiens’ Tomas Plekanec.
“I knew I was in trouble because I wasn’t in good position on the first play,” he said. “He threw it at me and my first thought was: Don’t knock it in. And then when it ends up right on his stick, it was just a desperation save. Luckily he didn’t put it far corner. It was just a quick play.”
Soon Lundqvist and his teammates were celebrating a 3-1 victory in Game 6 of the first-round series at Madison Square Garden, and Lundqvist was being serenaded with chants of “Hen-rik! Hen-rik!” For the series, he had a 1.70 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.
He also was bidding a handshake-line goodbye to his Montreal counterpart, Carey Price, a major star in his own right in a series that was billed as a showdown between two of the world’s best goalies.
“I have a lot of respect for Carey,” Lundqvist said. “He’s been a tough goalie in the league now for a lot of years and I knew going into this series, I’m going to have to play my best.
“I said it going into this series: Pretty good is not going to be good enough. I felt really good in this series. I felt like I was focusing on my game. And guys were playing with a lot of structure in front of me.”
The Rangers have made the playoffs in 11 of the 12 seasons that Lundqvist has been their primary goalie, but there is an added sense of urgency with each passing playoff spring.
“It’s just exciting, and a great feeling to do it in front of our fans,” he said. “It’s that excitement when you realize the puck goes in [to the empty net] and you’re moving on. It’s been a pretty intense last few days, but it’s worth it.”