Henrik Lundqvist is a big reason the Rangers are on the doorstep of their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years. But the extraordinary goalie had a rather ordinary night on Tuesday.
The Rangers have two key assets to fall back on — penalty killing and goaltending. It’s a combo that has put them within one victory of their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault is angry his team has been portrayed as “dishonorable and dishonest” by the Montreal Canadiens and coach Michel Therrien.
Derick Brassard has been itching to return to the Rangers’ lineup. Now healthy, the 26-year-old center will finally get his chance to make his mark on this series when he takes the ice for pivotal Game 4.
Lundqvist was stellar in claiming the first two wins of the Eastern Conference finals for the Rangers over the Canadiens on the road. But Montreal exacted a bit of revenge in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.
Gone will be the fear of impending doom. Suddenly, the Rangers are the front-runners against the Canadiens, and their fans now have the chance to celebrate the ride with them.
Henrik Lundqvist has the surging Rangers two wins away. “I thought we played well, and the only reason we lost was Lundqvist,” Montreal coach Michel Therrien said after Monday’s Game 2.
The Rangers joined star forward Martin St. Louis at his mother’s funeral outside Montreal on Sunday. Head coach Alain Vigneault’s voice cracked as he described the service.
The Rangers will be all business for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday. The next day will be rough, win or lose.
Although the Canadiens have one fewer day to prepare, they will have home-ice advantage. The Rangers were 1-1-1 this season against Montreal, which finished four points ahead of NY.
The Rangers rose to the occasion and beat a more talented opponent. They will sit and wait for Boston or Montreal to emerge as their opponents in the Eastern Conference finals.
Fans have grown accustomed to Henrik Lundqvist’s breathtaking heroics. But those final five minutes Tuesday may have been the best hockey he’s ever played.
The horn sounded and Lundqvist lifted his arms in a mixture of joy and exhaustion. Hey, nobody said carrying a team back from the brink was going to be easy, even for the goaltender his Rangers teammates call “King.”
Looking overmatched and overwhelmed while falling behind 3-1 to the Penguins four games into the Eastern Conference semis, it’s the Rangers who head to Game 7 on Tuesday night looking like the team ready to move on.
New York has never won a series it trailed 3-1 and has never beaten the Penguins in the playoffs. That trend might be changing, largely due to the emotional lift St. Louis brought to the Rangers this weekend.