I’ll admit it. I thought the New York Rangers were done for. I thought this series would be over before the weekend.
But I was wrong. And I’m very glad of it.
Because these New York Rangers are battlers.
Martin St-Louis, playing on Mother’s Day just a few days after the death of his own mother, proved again that he's a battler with a goal and another energetic effort in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday.
And Henrik Lundqvist, a goalie often criticized for never leading the Rangers deep into the playoffs, proved he’s a battler with an incredible performance in net to force a Game 7.
St-Louis will get plenty of credit – and deservedly so – for fighting through this emotional time to deliver for the Rangers. THN’s Ronnie Shuker already sang his praises for Game 5, and the New York fans did much of the same with repeated “Marty! Marty!” chants throughout Game 6.
So let’s show a litte love for Lundqvist, too.
Because Lundqvist was dominant in net for New York. He fought through a wacky bouncing puck that beat him in the first period. And he fought through a rather obvious shoulder issue that had Rangers fans wringing their hands nervously during the second period.
The injury came when Lundqvist fell forward awkwardly on his right shoulder while stopping Marcel Goc on a breakaway. Lundqvist paid frequent visits to the New York bench for attention during the second, but seemed to settle in after a few minutes and looked none the worse for wear during play.
In fact, Lundqvist was the best player on the ice, and his solid presence let the Rangers take risks and poach deep into the neutral zone all game. That led to a lot of risky plays but Lundqvist was there every time to shut the door.
‘King Henrik’ posted 36 saves and a stellar .972 save percentage in securing the win.
He was positively inhuman, while the Penguins’ best player, Sidney Crosby, looked decidedly mortal.
Crosby simply didn’t bring the jam he needs to bring to be effective. He looked hesitant in the corners and was invisible again on the score sheet. Now, as the Penguins prepare to face their first elimination game of these playoffs, Crosby will have to prove that he, too, can be a battler.
Because Crosby's one goal in his last 17 games is not good enough if the Pens are to go deeper in these playoffs.
And getting goal no. 2 is going to be one heck of a task against a battler like Lundqvist.