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Lundqvist at best when Rangers face elimination

by Brian Compton

TAMPA -- Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist thrives when the New York Rangers are on the brink of elimination. He's arguably the biggest reason why several teams have been unable to finish the job when they have the Rangers on the ropes.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are the latest team to be this position entering Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday at Amalie Arena (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

In the past 17 games when the Rangers have faced elimination, Lundqvist has won 14 of them. He has a 1.39 goals-against average, a .956 save percentage and two shutouts. In the past two seasons, he's helped New York erase 3-1 series deficits twice.

Tuesday, he could be the determining factor as the Rangers try to force a Game 7, which would be played Friday at Madison Square Garden.

"Every year you learn about yourself, about the game, and then you bring it with you," Lundqvist said Tuesday morning. "When you're in different situations, you use your experience to how to approach the game and how to prepare. A lot of these games come down to preparation and being in the right place mentally. You just go out and play your best game. A lot of it is just being in the right place mentally. Everybody works extremely hard at this time of the year and there are a lot of great players. It comes down to having the right mindset and the belief that you can do it."

The Rangers have been put in this situation nine times since the start of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lundqvist is 8-1 with a 1.31 GAA and a .961 save percentage. His teammates enter Game 6 knowing their No. 1 goaltender puts them in a position to live to fight another day.

"He always gives us confidence whether our backs are against the wall or not," forward Martin St. Louis said. "Hank's a premier goaltender. He's played extremely well for us this year and I don't expect anything different."

Rather than single one of his players out, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault praised his team for the way it has performed when in dire straits. New York has won at least 10 playoff games in back-to-back seasons.

"Not just Hank, our whole group," Vigneault said. "It's a team game and there's no doubt that as a group tonight we've got to come up with our best game of the year. That's what we're going to try and do."

But like most playoff games, what happens Tuesday could ultimately boil down to goaltending. The Rangers have no doubt Lundqvist will be ready. After allowing 12 goals on 66 shots in Games 2 and 3, Lundqvist responded by making 38 saves in a 5-1 victory in Tampa last Friday. The confidence that he can win in this building is there.

"I think it's just important that you stay focused on the important things, and that's doing your job," Lundqvist said. "You don't think about the situation we're in. This is a pretty good challenge for us. We're playing a really good team and they're playing with a lot of confidence right now.

"We know we can beat them, we did a great job against them last time in this building. Just be focused on the process here. The past is the past. We don't really think about that now. We have to really prove it to ourselves that we can play the best game of the series tonight."

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - J.T. Miller

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Jesper Fast

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes -- Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - James Sheppard

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Ryan Bourque, Matt Hunwick, Chris Summers

Injured: Mats Zuccarello (upper body)


Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Brian Boyle - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

J.T. Brown - Brenden Morrow

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Jason Garrison

Matthew Carle - Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Mark Barberio, Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Marchessault, Vladislav Namestnikov

Injured: none

Status update: Zuccarello participated in the morning skate, but is not expected to play. He's been out since his injury during Game 5 of the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 24. "Day-to-day, he's getting better," Vigneault said.

Who's hot: Yandle has one goal and four assists in his past three games; Boyle has five points (one goal, four assists) in his past seven games. Stepan has three goals and five assists in the past eight games.


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