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Henrik Lundqvist continues to build on his own legacy in Rangers' win

Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers defends

Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers defends his net in the second period against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, April 16, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Rangers legends Ed Giacomin and Mike Richter were in the stands for the opening game of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, getting the highlight-reel treatment from the scoreboard and drawing cheers from deliriously amped-up fans.

The other legendary goalie was on the ice, building on his own mystique.

Thursday night's 2-1 win over the Penguins was Henrik Lundqvist's 93rd playoff appearance (and his 44th victory), which tied Walt Tkaczuk for most in franchise history. And though the Penguins did plenty to beat themselves, Lundqvist again provided the Rangers the reliability that has marked his entire career.

He made 24 saves and otherwise showed very little give against a Penguins offense that labored painfully in a first period beset by four minor penalties but became increasingly dangerous in a significantly more disciplined stretch.

"I think you use something from every year," he said. "I've played for 10 years here and a few years back home and every year you learn something about the game."

He made three strong saves in a one-minute stretch midway through the third period -- kicked off by Evgeni Malkin's takeaway and capped by Steve Downie's wrister. His only hiccup came 6:15 into the second when Blake Comeau tipped in Ben Lovejoy's shot while Lundqvist was screened.

After coming back from a vascular injury (courtesy of the puck he took to the neck on Jan. 31), Lundqvist didn't seem to miss a beat, winning five of his seven post-injury appearances. In his last six games, he has posted a 1.99 GAA and a .933 save percentage.

"After a few games, when I came back, I felt so much better already in game two and game three," he said. "I was confident with the progress that I had that I would be ready in the playoffs."

Meanwhile, across the ice, the fates were slightly less forgiving to another of the league's best goalies. Marc-Andre Fleury looked positively victimized early in the game.

He allowed Derick Brassard's goal 28 seconds in and attempted to survive the aforementioned first-period penalties. He finally blinked at 15:16, when a roughing call on Comeau led to the Rangers' second goal (and ultimate game- winner), Ryan McDonagh's slap shot on a graceful feed from Keith Yandle.

Comeau's goal, though, meant that Lundqvist would have to continue building his mystique the hard way.

"That's the beauty of the sport," Lundqvist said. "It's never comfortable. . . . It's so fast, you have to keep your focus and you can't expect a game to go smoothly.''

It seems the only thing anyone can expect to go smoothly is Lundqvist himself.

New York Sports