LAS VEGAS -- Henrik Lundqvist couldn't pull his eyes away from the Vezina Trophy.
The New York Rangers goalie, sitting in a ballroom at the Wynn Hotel just minutes after being awarded the Vezina during Wednesday's NHL Awards show, kept staring in wonder at the trophy as he discussed the accomplishment of winning it after three unsuccessful attempts earlier in his career.
"There are a couple of my heroes on here," Lundqvist said, his eyes again darting to the trophy sitting to the left of him on the table. "Patrick [Roy], Dominik [Hasek] and Marty [Brodeur] have had great careers, so it feels good. It's been a goal for me."
Lundqvist was nominated for the award three years running, starting in 2006. Yet each June, another goalie took home the trophy, leaving Lundqvist more determined to lay claim to the award that recognizes the League's best goalie, according to the NHL's 30 general managers.
Despite a fantastic season, Lundqvist was fully prepared to face disappointment for a fourth time.
"I don't think I realize it yet," Lundqvist said. "I'm up against two guys that are great goalies that put up great numbers. I was just hoping to win. I've been up for it a few times. Every time you're nominated, it is a great feeling to be recognized for what you do out there and that people appreciate what you do."
This time, though, Lundqvist's numbers -- a 39-18-5 record with eight shutouts and a 1.97 goals-against average and .930 save percentage -- were good enough to hold off impressive seasons by Nashville's Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
In the end, the race wasn't as close as Lundqvist envisioned it. He was named on all 30 ballots and was the top selection on 17 for 120 points, easily outdistancing Quick (63) and Rinne (42).
The Vezina victory quickly washed away the disappointment of falling short in the race for the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award. He lost out on both to Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin, who led the League in scoring.
"Personally, I was just happy to be nominated," Lundqvist said. "I didn't expect to win. I think Malkin deserved it. He was outstanding this year and really dominated for a long time this year."
Then he looked again at the trophy he had claimed.
"This one means a lot," he said.
Yet as happy as he was to finally add his name to the Vezina honor roll, Lundqvist is not ready to rest on his laurels. The sting of losing to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals still lingers. No individual award, Lundqvist says, can serve as a balm for that disappointment.
"This is a different thing," he said. "I'm still disappointed the season ended the way it did. I really thought we had a chance this year to win, so now you just try to learn something from it and use it as motivation to work harder and get better. We had a great year, but it was not good enough."
Again, that sentence was punctuated by another glance at the Vezina, a not-so-furtive look that seemed to focus him on the task that now lies ahead: navigating the ultimate journey to win the only trophy that really matters to hockey players.
"This will definitely give me more motivation to keep working harder and improve my game," Lundqvist said.
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