Henrik Lundqvist had his teammates digging deep to describe his performance that put the New York Rangers on the verge of advancing in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the third straight year.
“He's like Tina Turner,” forward Brandon Dubinsky said, “He's 'Simply the Best.’”
Lundqvist tied a career playoff high with 38 saves _ half of them in the second period _ and the seventh-seeded Rangers put the Washington Capitals on the brink of elimination with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night.
Lundqvist, who posted a 1-0 shutout win in Game 2, was on top of his game as the Capitals controlled play from the second period to the end _ outshooting New York 39-21. But it's the Rangers who hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“He's amazing, he's our heartbeat, and he gives everyone confidence that is playing in front of him,” said defenseman Paul Mara, who staked the Rangers to a 1-0 lead in the first period. “He's awesome. We love him. He's the king.”
Mara snapped the Rangers' scoring drought at 126 minutes, 11 seconds with 6:05 left in the opening period, scoring just the second goal against Simeon Varlamov, the 20-year-old rookie who has stopped 75 of 78 shots since taking over for Jose Theodore after New York's 4-3 win in Game 1.
Chris Drury shook off an injury enough to add his first goal of the series. It turned out to be his 17th postseason winner.
“He is an easy guy to pull for,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “He is an important guy in the locker room. He is much healthier, improving the last couple of days. I think he has things figured out.”
Varlamov got Washington back into the series with a 4-0 win Monday night, after the Rangers posted a pair of road wins, but now the Capitals _ the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference _ could be out of the playoffs Friday night when they host Game 5.
“It's so important to bounce back with a good game when we struggled a little bit the last game,” Lundqvist said. “The way we responded is perfect.”
Washington erased a 3-1 hole against Philadelphia in the first round last year, before falling in overtime of Game 7.
“It's not done yet,” Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin said. “We were in this situation last year and we came back. We got that experience and it was good experience. We know how to come back.”
Ovechkin finally scored his first goal of the series, but it wasn't enough.
The Capitals' potent power play went 0-for-6 and is 4-for-22 in the series.
Lundqvist's most dramatic save came against onrushing forward Alexander Semin, who launched a rising drive that was snared at full extension by Lundqvist before the puck found the top right corner.
It brought the towel-waving crowd to its feet with thunderous chants of “Hen-rik! Hen-rik!”
The Capitals overcame a 3-1 series deficit once in their history, against Philadelphia in the 1988 Patrick Division semifinals. They have never won a series after trailing 2-0. The Rangers have never lost a series after leading 3-1.