Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 5/19/12

There's breathtaking goaltending, and then there's what went on in Henrik Lundqvist's crease this afternoon at the Prudential Center. 

In what was arguably the goalie's most admirable performance of his career, Lundqvist carried his New York Rangers to a Game 3 shutout victory over the New Jersey Devils all by himself. What the team accomplished, or didn't accomplish, in front of him was nothing to be proud of today, but The King was absolutely dominant and the only reason the Rangers walked away with a 2-1 advantage in the series. 

The Rangers' start to this game was far, far, far away from what they wanted after such a disappointing performance in Game 2 on Wednesday at MSG. Their unmotivated, lazy, reckless play from last game carried over into the first period of this one, which left the Devils plenty of room to take control of the pace and dominate from the early going. The Devils threw 11 shots on goal, more than doubling theRangers' measly five, but were also winning all of the battles, getting to the net and even finding holes for breakaway opportunities. If they had just gotten on the board, they probably would've ended this game before the Rangers even awoke to realize it had begun. 

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was the one and only reason why the Devils did not score in the opening twenty minutes and why the two teams went into the intermission locked in a scoreless tie. King Henrik lived up to his namesake with some marvelous stops to keep his club in it. He was the one and only player in white to have his head in the game from the opening faceoff, which is pathetically sad in a Conference Finals game against a bitter rival. 

Even sadder was the fact that not very much changed in the middle frame, which meant Lundqvist had the world on his shoulders once again. In just the first half of the second period, he was forced to stop two, not one, but two Ilya Kovalchuk breakaway attempts, in addition to one against Petr Sykora. If you thought the defense was bad in Game 2 for New York, then you were assuredly appalled by the display this afternoon. There's no excuse in the book that can justify back-to-back breaks for the opposition's most threating offensive player, and head coach John Tortorella had no other option but to let this be known to the his team before they fell even deeper into the hole they had already dug themselves into. 

The coach called one of his famous 'red-in-the-face' timeouts, pleading with his team to raise the level of intensity and, for lack of a better term, starting giving a damn about what was going down on the ice. From here the Rangers did respond, you have to give them that, but it was with a sporadic forecheckthat did not produce a whole lot of scoring chances. See, there is a major difference between scoring chances and just shots alone, and the first should be regarded as more important than the latter. The Rangers had very little to show in either category, but even less so in the chances column. 

The few chances that were generated were quickly wasted, or at least given right back on the next shift. For example, Ryan Callahan attempting to take his time on an open net rebound at the side of the net, making Martin Brodeur look to be the greatest athlete to ever lace up the skates, was embarrassing. If that puck is sitting in the crease while the goaltender is on the complete other side, you simply do not try to improve your shooting position by playing with it. Callahan did there, further proving that he has yet to show up to this series, whether the fans want to point a finger at their captain or not. 

Marian Gaborik also had two odd-man opportunities in the second period, both of which he spazzed on and failed to even get a shot on goal. The first was a 3-on-2 that he carried to the high slot and fanned on a shot, and the second was a 2-on-1 with Brad Richards that he had broken up Brodeur because of a very poor passing attempt through the crease. As you can see, that benching in the third period of Game 2 did the Slovakian Sniper wonders. 

Oh, and the horrible penalties by Mike Rupp and John Mitchell haven't even been mentioned yet. Both were lazy plays, both were untimely and both should have resulted in the guilty party not leaving their spot on the bench for the rest of the game. At that point, the Rangers were piling insult to injury upon themselves. 

But again, thanks to Lundqvist, they got away with all of this unblemished. 

Then, in the opening minutes of the third period, the unthinkable began to occur. The Blueshirts had a sudden burst of offense that gave them a two-goal lead in a 1:57 span, with one shockingly coming on the powerplay. First, at 2:11, a key offensive zone faceoff win by Richards was carried to the slot by DanGirardi and beautifully ripped top corner on Brodeur for a 1-0 lead. This was the first time Richards'name was associated with anything good in the game, but what a clutch play it was with the man advantage. And, of course, even better was the seeing-eye shot by Girardi. 

That goal was followed up by what seemed to be an innocent toss to the net by Ryan McDonagh from the point, but rookie Chris Kreider cut in and perfectly redirect the puck past the outstretched pad ofBrodeur for his fifth of the playoffs and to give the Rangers a 2-0 advantage. This one wasn't as surprising since prior to the third period, Kreider was again the most effective forward on the ice for New York. That tally also makes him the first NHL player to record five goals before playing in a single regular season game. 

New Jersey would be handed one last opportunity to respond with just over four minutes remaining in the third period, however. Brad Richards would be called for interference late, but to the Rangers' credit, they blocked a slew of shots to thwart any hope the Devils had of getting on the board. And since Ryan Callahan was called out earlier in this postgame, he will receive praise here because he was in the middle of the shot-blocking that commenced on that kill, and then would later add the empty-netter to finalize the Rangers unbelievable 3-0 win this afternoon in Game 3. 

But there's one name and one name only that deserves recognition today: Henrik Lundqvist. 

For forty minutes, the Rangers embarrassed themselves in this game. They lacked any sort of drive or will power, leaving their goaltender to do it all. Lundqvist, amazingly, was up to the task, making a total 36 saves for his second shutout of the series. As stated above, this was the most breathtaking performance of the Swede's career, and he proved Marty Brodeur's complimentary statements from before the series to be 100-percent accurate. 

God bless you, King Henrik. 

As good as he was, however, the Rangers need to match the effort of their netminder moving forward. This was a one-man display we saw this afternoon, and the Rangers will find themselves eliminated sooner rather than later if such inconsistency persists. On the bright side, though, if they can win this game, they should be able to win any game. 

Tell me I'm wrong. 

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