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Henrik Lundqvist finally ends Canadiens and his playoff failings

Rangers reach Cup finals for 1st time in 20 years
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New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) reacts as time winds off the clock to give the New York Rangers a 1-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals, Thursday, May 29, 2014, in New York. The Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The stats show that Henrik Lundqvist was the best player on the ice in the New York Rangers’ Game 6 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, capturing their first Eastern Conference title in 20 years.

He made 18 saves, pitched a 1-0 shutout and had at least two remarkable stops en route to the victory.

Like his blocker save on Thomas Vanek:

And his header late in the third period (via MyRegularFace)

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But even he knows that it was a team effort that sent to the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final.

“We might have played our best period of the season,” said Lundqvist of the third period, as the Rangers dropped three players in front of him on every Montreal rush and limited them to five shots on goal.

It was a team effort in Game 6, but Lundqvist has done his share of heavy lifting to get the Rangers back to the Final. His .928 save percentage leads the postseason. His save percentage at even strength was .935, second only to Tuukka Rask (.947) of the Boston Bruins. He’s faced more shots at 5-on-5 (449) than any other goalie in the playoffs.

Yet for all he’s done to establish himself as the Rangers’ leader for the Conn Smythe Trophy, Lundqvist’s Game 6 performance was a bit of redemption for the star goalie.

He was pulled from Game 5 in Montreal after 28:58, giving up four goals on 19 shots.

“I was disappointed. To be focused, to be mentally in the right place, it’s hard. My head wasn’t in the right place. I made some bad decisions,” he said after Game 6.

But his struggles went beyond that. Although unbeatable in Game 7s, Lundqvist has been downright terrible in elimination games before reaching the do-or-die finale. In his last five chances to clinch a series before Game 7, Lundqvist was 0-4 – his no decision was in Game 5 against Montreal – with a 5.53 GAA with a .808 save percentage. He was pulled four times.

Stunningly bad numbers, and enough to give one pause with Lundqvist between the pipes for Game 6. But the King banished that trend with his shutout win.

Lundqvist has an Olympic gold in 2006 with Sweden. He has two titles in the Swedish Elite League. He even has a gold medal in inline hockey, back in 2002.

He finally does what many of his goaltending contemporaries have done, which is win a conference title. But it’s the legends – Brodeur, Hasek, Roy, Belfour – that haven’t settled for the chance to play for the Cup. They won them.

Now, Lundqvist gets his chance. 

"It makes it even more special when you have four lines stepping up at different times and doing it together," he said. 

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