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Puck Daddy

NHL Rivals: Lundqvist at heart of Capitals vs. Rangers battles

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers used to be division rivals, back in the bloody days of the Patrick Division. When the NHL went a conference format, the two teams went from frequent playoff battles to 11 years without a postseason meeting.

That changed in 2008-09, when the Southeast Division champion Capitals met the Rangers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, winning in seven games. The teams would meet three more times in the playoffs in the coming years, with the Rangers winning two of those three series, including last spring in seven games.

The key to that victory, according to the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

“Almost one guy beat us. Of course they have a good team. They have great players, a great defensive team. But the goalie out there was unbelievable. It was like he was best in the league,” said Ovechkin to CSN Washington, after a series that saw him limited to one goal in seven games.

Lundqvist has been a tormentor of the Capitals through his career. He pitched back to back shutouts against them in Games 6 and 7 last season. He only gave up more than two goals in one game during the 2011 playoffs; in 2009, he pitched a shutout and had two one-goal games.

The Rangers could use that kind of effort from Lundqvist now. The King has struggled to a 1-3-0 record with an uncharacteristic .887 save percentage and a 4.21 GAA. Much of that has been due to poor defense in front of him; but Lundqvist has also tried to do too much on some misplays.

This is the first meeting between the teams in the Metropolitan Division. Both need to begin climbing the standings. It should make for an intense Rivalry Night game on NBC Sports Network (7 p.m. ET) on Wednesday.

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