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Rangers know Lundqvist is their 'backbone'

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- How do Henrik Lundqvist's teammates feel about him?

"He's the backbone of this team," New York Rangers forward Rick Nash said Wednesday from Madison Square Garden.

What about the coaching staff -- how do they feel about Lundqvist?

"He's the backbone of our club," coach John Tortorella said Wednesday in advance of Game 4 of the team's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS2).

Sensing a trend here? For good reason, of course -- Lundqvist, who won the Vezina Trophy last year, again is a finalist for the award given to the NHL's best goalie.

Lundqvist joins Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks and Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets as the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy. This is the fifth time Lundqvist has been a Vezina finalist; Niemi and Bobrovsky are up for the award for the first time.

"It means a lot. I'm really proud to be in that category," Lundqvist said. "It's been an interesting year, a different year. A shorter season, tight schedule and things maybe didn't go our way all the time, but when you have to work really hard to get back in the race and finally you get in, it's just a big reward."

Lundqvist helped get the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 24-16-3 record, a 2.05 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. He was tied for first in the NHL in wins and starts (43), ranked fifth in save percentage and seventh in GAA. He posted his eighth consecutive 20-win season, the longest current streak among active goalies.

"It's not very surprising; he's obviously probably one of the best goalies in the world," Nash said. "He helped us turn everything around when we were struggling. I can't say enough about him."

As Nash said, Lundqvist was at his best when the Rangers needed him the most. He allowed two or fewer goals in 16 of his final 20 regular-season games and went 13-5-2 with a 1.77 GAA and .935 save percentage during that span.

"Last year I thought a lot of things were going our way and this year we had to work really hard for it," Lundqvist said. "Personally, maybe I had a little more highs last year, but the consistency this year is something I'm pleased with."

Lundqvist has a 2.26 GAA and .929 save percentage through three games against the Capitals. He has started all 55 playoff games the Rangers have played since 2007.

"I think more and more teams kind of flip-flop their goalies and certainly it's nothing against the goalies that have been here behind [Lundqvist], but that doesn't cross our mind," Tortorella said. "He's that good and that consistent. The thing I love about him is just the way he competes."


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