No one is surprised by the fact that Henrik Lundqvist carried the Rangers on his back to a 1-0 win against the Senators in Game Three of their series Monday night.
Lundqvist was perfect on a night when his team needed him to be perfect, which is something that we might just take for granted given how many times we've seen it happen in the past.
But this Brian Boyle explosion is something that nobody saw coming. Boyle, booed all night by an Ottawa crowd that liked the way their team assaulted him throughout Game Two at the Garden, scored the only goal of the game with 12:25 to play.
That makes three goals in three nights for the oversized center who has picked exactly the right moment to get hot. He also blocked shots, set up teammates with big passes and drew a huge penalty late in the third to wipe out an Ottawa power play that threatened their slim advantage.
The goal, as they often do in 1-0 playoff games, came out of nowhere. After almost 50 minutes of pounding away, Dan Girardi fired a puck off the back boards and it took a big bounce right onto the doorstep of the goal, where Boyle put it away.
Playoff hockey has inspired all kinds of semi-epic poetry over the years. It can turn in an instant, tying your stomach up in knots as you hold your breath during every shot and every rush down the ice. Games exactly like this one have led to such poetry.
There were moments when the Senators and Rangers rushed up and down the ice for minutes at a time without a stoppage, with every missed shot leading to a try at the other end and then back again. And then there were long periods where every inch of ice was taken by force, but only as long as it took for another player to arrive on the scene and take it back for his side.
There was magical defensive play by Anton Stralman in the Rangers end, and blocked shot after blocked shot on both sides of the ice. The Senators dominated play for long stretches, much longer than the Rangers ever dominated, but every chance was snuffed out before their lively crowd could celebrate.
Both goalies stood tall throughout it all. Craig Anderson stopped two Rangers breakaways to keep the score 1-0 and nearly equaled what Lundqvist did for the entire 60 minutes.
Playoff hockey isn't horseshoes, though, and close isn't good enough for anything other than a loss. Anderson got beaten once, while Lundqvist stopped all 39 pucks that came his way and many of them were of the spectacular variety.
That's the Lundqvist we saw for so much of the season, the one who could steal any game for his team simply by making sure no puck made its way into the net. There was a bit of slippage down the stretch, forcing you to wonder if the King was still truly in charge of the ice.
Monday night answered that question with a resounding yes. The Rangers are back in front in a series that can't possibly get any tenser or more exciting than what we saw in Game Three.
Unless, of course, it does.