Henrik Lundqvist, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, finished the condensed 2012-13 season with the second best save percentage (0.926) and goals against average (2.05) of his career – both of which trailed only to his 2011-12 season. Additionally, he earned an impressive 16.81 goals saved above average in his 43 regular season appearances.
The series kicked off in Washington, where the Rangers fell to an 0-2 start. They bounced back with two consecutive wins at Madison Square Garden to even out the series.
Back in Washington for Game 5, Brian Boyle gave the Blueshirts a 1-0 lead in the first period. The Capitals evened the score in the second period with a power play goal from Joel Ward – a goal that went unanswered by the Rangers. Lundqvist held off the Capitals in the third period, but ultimately allowed one from Mike Ribeiro midway through overtime. While Ribeiro’s goal ended the game and put the Rangers back to a series deficit, it was the last goal Lundqvist allowed in that series.
With the Rangers facing elimination, the series returned to the Garden for Game 6. Derick Brassard scored the only goal of the game in the second period, and Lundqvist maintained their 1-0 lead – stopping all 27 shots he faced.
At this point in the series, the home team had won each game. History wasn’t on their side either, as the Rangers had lost five previous Game 7s on the road (between 1939 and 2009). This one was different though, thanks to The King.
Aaron Asham opened the scoring, with a goal in the first period. Two more were tallied in the second period, from Taylor Pyatt and Michael Del Zotto. Ryan Callahan continued the scoring in the third period and Mats Zuccarello finished it with the Rangers’ fifth of the night.
One day after shutting out the Capitals in Game 6, Lundqvist backstopped the Rangers to a series-clinching Game 7 victory, with 35 saves and yet another shutout.
It was Lundqvist that earned a 0.947 save percentage and 1.65 goals against average in this seven-game series against the Capitals, who boasted stars like Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom. It was Lundqvist who forced a Game 7 with a Game 6 shutout. It was Lundqvist who stopped 62 consecutive shots and earned back-to-back shutouts while facing elimination in both games. And it was Lundqvist, the generational talent in net, who gave the Rangers a chance in their quest for the Stanley Cup.
Although their next series against the Boston Bruins was ultimately disappointing and ended with a five-game elimination, Lundqvist’s game-changing play to close out the quarterfinals was another career-defining moment. Those back-to-back shutouts not only contributed to a career-high playoff save percentage of 0.934 and strong 4.75 goals saved above average, but propelled the Rangers into the semifinals – as Lundqvist once again proved how he was the Rangers’ backbone.