NEWARK, N.J. -- New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist didn’t face a single shot on goal until 9:48 into the Rangers 2-0 shutout against the New Jersey Devils, but the first save he was forced to make was the most difficult -- and breathtaking -- stop in another historic night for the 32-year-old netminder.
With former teammate Jaromir Jagr streaking in all alone, Lundqvist foiled Jagr’s fantastic breakaway move, stretching his right pad out just enough to stifle the Devils’ best scoring chance of the night.
“He has such a long reach,” Lundqvist said. “When he went to his right I just tried to go with him. When he went back, I just tried to stretch as much as I could. The first period I didn’t face many shots, so obviously to get a start like that was important for me. It’s a lot easier to stay focused on the right things when you make those saves, especially early on.”
It was the first of 21 saves for Lundqvist, who blanked the Devils to pass Rangers legend Eddie Giacomin to become the club’s all-time shutout leader with the 50th of his career. Just last week, Lundqvist recorded his 304th NHL win to move ahead of another icon, Mike Richter, on the all-time wins list.
Lundqvist was able to share the special achievement with his parents, who flew in from Sweden on Friday and got to see his milestone performance in person.
“That means a lot to me,” he said. “I’m just really happy right now.”
As are his teammates, who have been benefactors of his stellar goaltending of late. The team has rattled off three straight wins to solidify their position as a playoff team with ten games remaining in the regular season.
“Tremendous,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said of Lundqvist’s performance. “He’s been in this position before. He’s been a leader in the back end, the backbone of our team. You can see he’s talking a lot, he’s making great efforts on second and third pucks, he’s really holding his ground in the crease there. We need him to continue. He knows that and he wants to do that as well.”
Lundqvist said the game was challenging both mentally and physically, especially after Friday’s emotional win in Columbus. He saw only 11 shots through the first forty minutes of play, and then was under siege for a stretch in the third period with the Devils buzzing around the net.
But the importance of the remaining games have helped hone Lundqvist’s focus. He knows he needs to be at his best for the Rangers to remain among the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It was an exhausting game but a fun game. It was intense,” he said. “Just like last night, it feel like teams are realizing how important [these games are]. It’s just fun to be out there.”
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault indicated in his pre-game press briefing that he’s expecting to ride Lundqvist right into the playoffs. And with the Rangers having just completed their last back-to-back set, that’s no surprise.
Lundqvist welcomes the challenge.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s exciting. You feel the excitement in the building. In the locker room, guys are a little nervous. That’s the way you want it.”