Lundqvist QA on NYR

Henrik Lundqvist is enjoying the New York Rangers’ ride in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, albeit in a much different way than he had become accustomed to for 15 years.

The former Rangers goalie, whose No. 30 hangs in the rafters at Madison Square Garden, is a full-time analyst, splitting his time in the Eastern Conference Final between New York and his duties with the MSG Networks pregame and postgame shows, and in Atlanta for TNT's studio show.

And for the first and second periods of New York's home games against the Florida Panthers, Lundqvist was in the stands, in one of his fashionable gameday suits, watching from near center ice, just a few rows up from the Rangers bench.

His wife and two daughters joined him for Game 2, when he sat next to Kenan Thompson from “Saturday Night Live.” The Garden crowd roared for him, chanting "Hen-REEK, Hen-REEK, He n-REEK," when he was shown on the scoreboard.

The Rangers won that game, 2-1. They also won 5-4 in overtime of Game 3 on Sunday. They lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 going into Game 4 at Amerant Bank Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ESPN, SN, TVAS, CBC).

"It's been a lot of hockey, but this is the best time of the year," Lundqvist told "It's more fun to play and it's more fun to watch when every play matters. I think fans enjoy it too. Of course there's moments you wish you were still out there. It's fun to be a part of, but I do enjoy watching it."

Lundqvist offered more of his thoughts on the Rangers and goalie Igor Shesterkin in a phone conversation with just after landing in Atlanta on Monday, when he joined the panel on TNT's studio show for Game 3 of the Western Conference Final between the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers.

The NHL Now reviews Eastern Conference Finals

How are you with all of this? Are you living and dying with the moments of the Rangers run because of your history with the team and who you are with the team? Is it fan moments for you?

"Any time something happens good or bad, you know what they're going through, you know what they're feeling, so you kind of get those emotions. It's a big save or a big goal or a mistake, you know exactly how they're feeling in that moment. Yeah, it's a weird way of watching, to watch it as a fan of the game but also the emotional part of it, you understand what's going on and what they feel. I think all former players feel it when they watch it, especially if you haven't been away from the game that long."

You've been in the moment that Igor is in right now, in the conference final, just two wins away now from the Stanley Cup Final. How do you handle the stress of it, the pressure of being in this moment? What does a goalie do to handle it?

"No. 1, you have to embrace it, the whole thing, the moment, the pressure, the fact you're playing teams that are coming after you. That's No. 1. And you can see he's enjoying it. He's playing a big part in the series right now the way he's playing. That's fun. You want to play a part in it. Then what's been impressive I think so far in the playoffs, especially with him, is his ability to raise his level when the team really needs it, to step up in a tie game, overtime. There's been a couple games, like against Carolina, they gave up a couple early goals but then he just locked it in and gave the team a chance to come back. It looks like he's really playing a confident game right now."

FLA@NYR ECF, Gm2: Shesterkin directs shot off the post

I asked Igor on Monday when you're in the moment like this and the pressure of it, when they're constantly on the attack like the Panthers were in the third period of Game 3, what's that like? And he literally just said, "Honestly, I just try to enjoy it." I guess that's it, right? Is that what you have to do?

"You know, sometimes it's actually easier. There's no time to think or get away. It forces you to be in the moment. I think the tougher games are when you get tested with a couple shots and then you stand there for 12 minutes and then there's a breakdown and a big chance. But when you face a team that tends to come at you every other shift it just keeps you in the moment, forces you."

Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said Monday that even though Igor gave up four goals in Game 3, it might have been his best game of the playoffs. I found that interesting that a goalie can give up four and still be at his best. Do you agree?

"To me it's been many games, not just one game, where he's on point. You see a lot of games right now where teams have moments, surges where they just create a lot within a few minutes and you just have to stand tall in those moments. Then your own team takes over and brings the momentum back. But you see it more now during playoffs than during the regular season, where you have minutes or stretches throughout periods where it just belongs to one team. As a goalie, you just have to try to slow it down, obviously come up with the big saves when you have to, but also I think rebound control becomes very important. That's a big key."

NYR@WSH R1, Gm4: Shesterkin stones Malenstyn with a great save

When you're in the moment like Igor is right now, is it easier to keep the consistency of your routine or is it a challenge because of the moment?

"No, you're playing every other day. I think the big thing is to just relax in between, save energy so you have all that saved up for the games. You go from such an intense environment and then you have to find ways to unlock that and get away from it in between. It's a lot easier to do when you're playing well, the team is playing well and everybody is just enjoying their time together, having fun."

Igor was smiling, laughing, joking around as he was at the podium for a press conference Monday. Is that a tell for how he is?

"Yes. You look at the group, they're playing well as a team and everybody from fourth line to the star players, they're all adding so much right now. It looks like they have a great energy in that room and it helps, of course. It helps people relax and enjoy the moment when you do that. It's easier to play your best too."

Does the fact that even though the Rangers have played some games when they weren't at their best, like Game 3, and they still find a way to win, fuel your belief even more for what can be accomplished?

"Yeah, and we've seen it all year long, right? There's been a lot of games where you're wondering if maybe this is not their win tonight, and still they just find a way. It's great to see too, [Barclay] Goodrow and a couple guys, great role players doing well. It's just another testament to their team and how many people are adding value right now."