NEW YORK -- It was less than 24 hours after losing Game 5 in Washington when Henrik Lundqvist started talking about trying to enjoy the moment. He said that would be key for him to be successful in Game 6 Sunday.
He was wrong.
GAA: 1.91 | SVP: 0.937
There will be a Game 7 Monday night at Verizon Center because of Lundqvist. It's really that simple.
New York's Vezina Trophy-winning goalie made 27 saves for his seventh career postseason shutout. Derick Brassard scored the only goal in the second period and Lundqvist made 12 saves on the Washington Capitals in the third period to make sure the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals returned to Verizon Center for an 8 p.m. ET opening faceoff Monday.
"I felt like I was patient and I waited for the pucks," Lundqvist said following his first-star performance. "[Braden] Holtby was playing really well. He kept them in the game, especially in the second period, so I felt this would be a tight one, maybe one or two goals tops. My focus was to try to shut it down. It definitely helps when the guys play like that in front of you. We really paid the price."
Lundqvist is 2-1 with 1.33 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in Game 7s for his career. He won both Game 7s last year at home.
"The ultimate goal for Hank, in his mind, is to win the Stanley Cup," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "But you need to go through these types of situations to get there obviously. So I thought he stood in there last year for us and he certainly came up big [Sunday]."
Lundqvist had to earn it Sunday. His margin for error was razor thin, just like it has been throughout this series, in which the past five games have been decided by one goal.
The Rangers couldn't convert on five power plays, including a 5-on-3 for 44 seconds in the first period. Despite owning the zone in the second period with their aggressive forecheck, they still needed a deflection off a slap shot to beat Caps goalie Braden Holtby.
Once the third period began, Lundqvist knew it was on him. He delivered with the help of five blocked shots.
"As the game moves on I can see the way he's playing in the other net," Lundqvist said of Holtby. "We had a lot of great chances, especially in the second period, but he kept it 1-0. Then I know I have to be sharp. You put a little extra pressure on yourself."
But that pressure is nothing compared to what Lundqvist has ahead of him Monday at Verizon Center, where he is 0-3 in the series despite a 1.84 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.
Lundqvist gave up three goals in the second period of Game 1 and the Rangers lost, 3-1. Mike Green beat him in overtime of Game 2 for a 1-0 Washington win. Mike Ribeiro scored in overtime of Game 5 to give the Capitals a 2-1 win.
"Obviously, one of the best goalies in the League," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We're lucky we have some of the best scorers in the League and the best playmakers. I just hope that our guys are better than their guys."
Lundqvist isn't perturbed in the least that he's winless at Verizon Center in this series. He's also not thinking about the fact that he's 1-10 in the Capitals' home building since Game 5 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals -- or that the one win came in triple overtime last year.
"If you lose two in overtime you know you're close, it's just a bounce and you win it so we know we can do it," Lundqvist said. "We have to play a really hard and smart game because they always come a little harder, I feel like, in their own building. If we can build on this one [Game 6] -- I thought from the get go we did all the things we talked about, the forecheck and the first goal. It was fun."
But not necessarily enjoyable throughout -- at least not the way Lundqvist said it would be.
"You say it, you want to enjoy it, but it's intense and there's a lot of pressure," Lundqvist said. "There are moments during the game where you almost have to pinch yourself and you try to enjoy that, but then there are moments when you feel like, 'What is this? Why am I in this position?' But it's fun. The adrenaline and excitement and to play at home in front of your fans, it motivates you to work even harder, that's for sure."