GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It’s the Rangers’ biggest game of the season and possibly their last. Yet if you were to follow Henrik Lundqvist into Madison Square Garden before Game 6 of their second-round series against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night, you would not notice anything out of the ordinary.
The goaltender treats every game as if it were the most important one he has ever played. That is one reason his teammates say they have the confidence that he can bounce back from two subpar performances in Ottawa and help the Rangers force Game 7.
“He will have his Hank on,” Derek Stepan said. “It’s just the way he carries himself. Whether he’s in Game 4 of the regular season or in Game 6 against Ottawa, he does the same thing every single game. Every time he comes into the room, he has his focus and his Hank going.”
Lundqvist may not act any differently before an elimination game, but dating to the 2012 season, he has played well in his 20 win-or-go-home contests. He is 15-5 in elimination games with a 1.74 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and two shutouts.
There’s little doubt that the Rangers need Lundqvist to have a big game Tuesday night, little doubt that they need him to quickly forget about the 11 goals he allowed in the Rangers’ two overtime losses in Ottawa in the series. He allowed only two goals in the two previous games at the Garden in this series.
“We need Hank to be Hank,” coach Alain Vigneault said after Monday’s practice. “He played real well our last two home games. I think we’re all upbeat about coming in here and playing in front of our fans. We got to bring it. Simple as that.”
Lundqvist may not prepare any differently for a do-or-die game, but he says he thrives on the pressure.
“You try to put everything in a positive way and that sort of helps you,” he said. “Is it a pressure situation? Yes. But you try to enjoy that and see it as a great challenge. Right now, you do whatever you can to raise your level and be ready and play your best game and see how far it takes you. No matter what happens, you want to feel like you left everything out there.”
He certainly does. At this point in his career, Lundqvist knows there are no guarantees about how many more huge games he will play in. He likes his current teammates and believes they have it in them to advance to the next round.
“We believe in ourselves,” Lundqvist said. “We believe in the group we have here. We’re going to go out and play our best game of the year . . . I think in a game like this, you just try to relax and focus on the things that really matter. It comes down to how you focus and how you manage your thoughts.”
In other words, how you put your Hank on.