For one night anyway, Madison Square Garden had that ol’ “Blue Magic”.
Henrik Lundqvist earned his 400th career win as the Rangers topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 at the Garden last night. “It’s an impressive stat”, said Kevin Hayes.
“The King” recorded his first career win in his second start in October of 2005 against the New Jersey Devils at the Garden. The opposing goaltender that night was none other than Martin Brodeur, who only became the winningest netminder in NHL history. Last night was Lundqvist’ 598th start and he gave the Rangers a vintage performance in the third period to extend the club’s winning streak to five straight.
The milestone night was a welcome respite for the famous building which had a tumultuous week as a result of the drama emanating from the co-tenants. “Winning at MSG, the crowd is really into it and it’s just the best feeling”, Lundqvist said, “that’s why you go to work every morning and try to improve your game.”
Lundqvist became the 12th goalie in NHL history to reach 400 wins and he’s only the third (Brodeur and former Chicago Black Hawks goalie Tony Esposito are the others) to do it with one team. “There’s a reason why he’s “the King”, Hayes said. “I’m sure he’s gonna have a lot more wins to come. 400 is a whole lot of wins.”
The NHL’s worst team had a 2-1 lead after two. Kevin Klein scored the first of his two goals on the night to give the Rangers an early 1-0 lead in the first period but Lundqvist gave up one he’d like to have back with less than 16 seconds left as Gabriel Landeskog tied the game.
In the second, it appeared Colorado’s Jarome Iginla was in the crease when former Ranger John Mitchell gave the Avs a 2-1 lead with hissecond of the season. Lundqvist was furious but to no avail as the play was not challenged.
The Rangers had a little more motivation going into the third period than just earning an important two points. The team had the number 400 on their minds as they prepared for the final stanza. Hayes, who closed the scoring and sealed the win with an empty net goal said, “You got Hanky and his 400th win at home, I think kinda drove everyone a little bit harder.”
Klein’s second goal of the game tied it at two and the Rangers took the lead for good less than three minutes later on a deflection by Rick Nash on a nifty pass from Derek Stepan. “Timely goals, nice to chip in and contribute to that special win for Hank”, Klein said.
Once the Rangers got the lead, Lundqvist hunkered down and made 15 of his 32 saves.
After Hayes’ deposited his empty netter with 1:38 remaining, familiar chants of “Hen-Rik, Hen-Rik” began to rain down as Lundqvist closed in on an historical number.
The soon to be 35-year old has rebounded nicely from his tough stretch earlier in the season which featured a rare display of the fans’ discontent. “That last couple of minutes you hear the crowd you get goose bumps”, Lundqvist said. “It was just like my first game here, they chanted my name, that was 12 years ago. At times it feels surreal.”
After the game, the ever classy Lundqvist gave credit to the Rangers’ organization and his teammates over the years. “This organization means so much to me”, said Lundqvist, “it’s been 12 years, I’m getting a lot of starts and I had a lot of good teammates.”
The team current teammates realized just how much the number 400 meant to their goaltender. “We knew it was gonna come, it was one of those things, he’s been a pillar back there for so many years.” said Klein.