NEW YORK (WFAN) — It was the turning point of the game, and ultimately helped springboard the Rangers into the Stanley Cup finals.
With a little less than five minutes left in the second period of a then-scoreless Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against Montreal, the Canadiens’ Thomas Vanek broke in on the backhand against Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
What followed nearly blew the roof off Madison Square Garden and set the stage for Dominic Moore’s eventual winning goal three minutes later.
A guest on WFAN host Mike Francesa’s show on Friday afternoon, Lundqvist explained how he made the save that stunned 18,000-plus in the Garden and thousands watching on television all over the country.
“I expected a pass to go across and (Vanek) tried to go across and then it hit Girardi and when I see the puck start going towards the net and my motion is going towards the left you can’t react like you normally do because it’s not gonna happen, you’re not gonna stop it,” Lundqvist said. “So you have to quickly do something different and my first thought was to drop my stick because it’s obviously easier to get your hand up if you don’t hold the stick. It’s just a reaction thing that happens and the timing worked out, but you need some luck, obviously.”
Lundqvist said even though there was more than a period left to play, if that shot somehow went in the Rangers could very well have found themselves in a Game 7 in Montreal this weekend.
“When it’s a tight game like that and you see their goalie is playing really well, you know all it’s going to take here is one, maybe two goals,” Lundqvist told Francesa. “Every save, every mistake matters at this point, so of course it feels good when you feel like you are there for the team and you can make those extra stops. That’s my job.”
The 2011-12 Vezina Trophy winner said even though a lot of people are fixated on the save, it was the Rangers’ team play in the third period that really won the series.
“Going into the third period, have a 1-0 lead, Game 6, and you know if we take care of business here we’re in the Stanley Cup Final. What was so great to see was we didn’t sit back. We just took charge and played an outstanding third period,” Lundqvist said. “I didn’t have that much to do in the third period. We took it to them instead of sitting back. I challenged myself going into the third period – let’s close the door here and do whatever it takes to win this game.”
Lundqvist said he’s been fighting the urge to feel too good about what the Rangers have accomplished so far, because they still have to defeat a recent Stanley Cup champion to earn their first championship since 1994. The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings were to resume their Western Conference finals series Friday night with Game 6 at Staples Center. An LA win would end the series. A Chicago win would set up Game 7 on Sunday in the Windy City.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions. You’re proud and happy and excited but at the same time you know there’s a lot of work ahead of us,” Lundqvist said.
The Stanley Cup finals will begin one way or another on June 4.
Lundqvist said this team is by far the best one he’s played on during his nine years in New York, adding there is an intangible that just doesn’t grow on trees.
“I like the energy in the group. I like the way we are playing. And the fact that we have four lines doing so well right now. They can all score. They can all be the difference. They all play a big part on this team and why we have success. I think that’s huge. When you want to have a long run you need to make sure everything feels like they are bringing something to the table, and that’s the case here,” Lundqvist said.
The Rangers’ goalie had more to say. Please click on the audio link below for his full interview with Francesa.