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Lundqvist gets 11th 20-win season to start career

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com

PHILADELPHIA -- New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist sat at his locker after a 3-2 shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and talked about his luck.

He talked about how lucky he's been to have teammates help him and how lucky he's been to have coaches who have had the confidence to play him so often.

But there are 11 seasons' worth of New York Rangers players, coaches and fans who feel lucky to have had Lundqvist in net.

Lundqvist's win Saturday was his 20th of the season, making him the first NHL goaltender to start his career with 11 straight 20-win seasons. He also joined Hockey Hall of Fame member Tony Esposito and Martin Brodeur as the only goalies with 11 straight 20-win seasons at any point in their career. Lundqvist is the 15th goalie with at least 11 20-win seasons.

His 359 wins are 17th all-time, and second among active goalies behind the Florida Panthers' Roberto Luongo (420). Among active goalies to play at least 300 games, his .921 save percentage ranks first and his 2.27 goals-against average is second to the Los Angeles Kings' Jonathan Quick. His 57 shutouts are second to Luongo (71).

Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy in 2012 and has been a finalist four other times and has been considered among the elite goaltenders in the League since not long after he arrived in the NHL for the 2005-06 season.

"I take a lot of pride in my numbers," Lundqvist said. "I want to make the most of it with my career. Try to work hard and try to help this team to win games. But I've been lucky. I've been part of so many good teams, good players that have been supportive throughout my career. Also I've been given the opportunity to play a lot of games."

Lundqvist has earned his right to control the net. He'd likely be building toward his 11th straight 30-win season were it not for the lockout-shortened season in 2012-13. He had 24 wins in 43 games that season, a pace that would have given him 40 wins in an 82-game season.

"He's one the elite goaltenders in the League, there's no doubt," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "I think what's brought him there to that level is his work ethic and his preparation and his mental capacity. He's real focused and oriented in the right areas. That's why he's one of the elite goaltenders."

Lundqvist is 20-12-4 in 37 games this season. His 2.46 GAA is higher than his lifetime average (2.27) but he said Saturday he's starting to feel his game is rounding into shape; Lundqvist has allowed two goals or fewer in three straight games.

"I feel like my game is definitely moving in the right direction," he said. "Technically I'm getting close to where I want to be. Mentally you gain more and more confidence as you do more and more good things out there. ... Technically I feel like I'm playing my game. Not only the last two, but my last four, five technically. And mentally you gain confidence as you do more and more good things. It helps when you win for sure. But you feel like you're doing the right things."

Lundqvist may be a harsh grader. To his teammates, he's always outstanding. And the only luck is what they feel when they look behind them and see him standing in the crease.

"I feel like I say it every year, every game he breaks another record," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "We're just lucky to have him back there. He made a couple huge saves tonight to keep us in the game. It's nice to know he's back there for you. He just comes up with something every night that's special. He's got a long career ahead of him and we're glad to have him on our team."

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