NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers would prefer to not be trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series, but they may have the ultimate ace up their sleeve facing elimination in Game 6 on Sunday at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Few play better when the season is at stake than Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Trailing 3-1 in the series in Game 5 on Friday, Lundqvist made 31 saves in a 5-1 win that improved his record to 8-2 with a .953 save percentage and 1.38 goals-against average in his past 10 elimination games. In his past six elimination home games, he is 6-0 with an 0.98 goals-against average, .965 save percentage and two shutouts.
In typical Lundqvist fashion, he isn't paying attention to his statistics in must-win games.
"It's not about me, it's about the team. It's meeting that challenge that the season is on the line," Lundqvist said after practice Sunday. "You have to go out and earn it every night. It is a team game and it's about everybody accepting that challenge. It's definitely a great challenge for us."
The last time Lundqvist lost an elimination game at MSG was against the Buffalo Sabres on May 6, 2007. That was his second NHL season and the only player other than the Swedish goaltender remaining from that Rangers team is defenseman Dan Girardi, who was a rookie that year.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault isn't surprised by the clutch play from his goaltender. Those results are simply a byproduct of the dedication Lundqvist has demonstrated throughout the season.
"What I see from Hank on a daily basis is a competitor. His preparation is above and beyond," Vigneault said. "He gets in that mental zone and he stays there, and he prepares himself and goes out for practice and games and competes. When you do that, there's a good chance you're going to be good, and he's been more than good."
The hope is that Lundqvist's attention to detail and preparation can allow the Rangers to extend this series to a deciding Game 7, which would be played Tuesday at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
"You go out there and you play your game and focus on your part of the ice," Lundqvist said. "There's no better feeling than to win a must game at home. That's what we're looking to do. We're only focusing on tonight."