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Henrik Lundqvist silences critical Bell Centre fans

Responds to pregame mocking with sterling performance, shutout

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- The derisive chants of "Lund-qvist! … Lund-qvist!" went up in Bell Centre during Wednesday's warmup, and then again at increased volume while the ice was still wet following the opening faceoff.

But by night's end, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist had silenced a frustrated crowd in stoning the Montreal Canadiens with a stellar performance, turning aside 31 shots for a 2-0 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round.

"Yeah, it was funny," Lundqvist said of the early mocking, happily parked under the Broadway Hat that is voted by the Rangers to the game's most valuable player. "It started the first 20 seconds, I think. It doesn't matter how you feel sometimes. As a goalie, you never know how the game is going to be played. You just go out there and react to what's in front of you. Even though you feel great, you might give up four, five goals, but I just went out there and tried to feel as good as I could and believe in my game and what I've been doing the past couple weeks.


[RELATED: Lack of playoff scoring still haunting Canadiens | Complete Rangers vs. Canadiens series coverage]


"Sometimes when the pressure goes up it's easier to block out the things that don't really matter. It's just one game. We have to prove ourselves, I have to prove myself every game we go out here, but it was definitely the start we were looking for."

It's fashionable to set up a playoff series with a subplot of goalie versus goalie, no matter that they don't see each other any closer than 180 feet away unless they're skating to their benches during TV timeouts. At no point during Lundqvist's six-minute postgame chat was there mention of the name of Carey Price, his rival in the Canadiens net who made 29 saves, yielding just a first-period backhand goal by Tanner Glass before being pulled for an extra skater in the game's final stages.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm1: Lundqvist shuts out Habs in Game 1 win

But the talk was rich coming into this series about Lundqvist's struggles against the Canadiens, with a record of 14-17-3 and .898 save percentage against Montreal in 35 regular-season appearances.

In regular-season and playoff games head-to-head against Price, Lundqvist entered Game 1 with a record of 6-9-2, a 3.08 goals-against average and .892 save percentage. Price was 10-5-1, 2.67, .913 and two shutouts.

In his last playoff game on Bell Centre ice, Game 5 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, Lundqvist was given the mercy hook by coach Alain Vigneault midway through the second period after having surrendered four goals on 18 shots.

But he returned brilliantly for Game 6 at Madison Square Garden two nights later to shut out the Canadiens 1-0 and clinch the series. With Wednesday's shutout, Lundqvist has blanked Montreal twice in a row in the postseason.

It was the 10th postseason shutout for Lundqvist, pushing him past Mike Richter as the Rangers all-time leader. And a little more history: Lundqvist became the first Rangers goalie to get a playoff shutout in Montreal since Chuck Rayner on April 6, 1950.

Even with the experience of 116 playoff games, Lundqvist admitted to "butterflies for two days" before Game 1.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm1: Lundqvist stones Weber with shoulder

"You know the importance. The urgency goes up and the desperation goes up," he said. "I've been thinking about this almost every hour for the past week, about the start. You're anxious, nervous and excited at the same time. It's just nice to get going. There's so much inside you that you want to get going, test yourself.

"I was just excited to see how well we played. We had some great meetings the last couple days but it's not easy to go out the first game and execute the way you discussed, but we did (and) we started off on the right foot."

Lundqvist stopped 16 shots in the first period, then pretty much grew moss for a good portion of the second as the Rangers shifted the momentum their way. But the Canadiens found their game as the period wore on and Lundqvist would be tested, especially on the power play by defenseman Shea Weber.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm1: Lundqvist denies Pacioretty with a pad

"It surprised me a little bit. (Weber) was coming there with a pretty good shot. Half slide, half butterfly, old school on that one," Lundqvist said with a grin. 

"It was a battle. Obviously there's been a lot of talk about me playing up here but I've been feeling pretty good the past week, and when I get the support I had tonight, it's a great feeling to be out there and battle. We came up with some huge plays toward the end. We'll enjoy this tonight and start over tomorrow with preparation (for Game 2)."

He knows the Lundqvist chants will resume Friday night, and he's probably even looking forward to them, the Canadiens now skating on ice that is a little thinner than it was before the series began.

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