NEW YORK -- The breakneck pace at which the New York Rangers will play over the last month of the season won’t provide much time for reflection, but no one can fault Henrik Lundqvist for taking a moment following Sunday’s 3-0 win against the Detroit Red Wings to digest what he had just accomplished.
Beyond the critical two points earned, which allowed the Rangers to leapfrog the Philadelphia Flyers and reclaim second place in the Metropolitan Division standings, Lundqvist recorded his 300th career win with a stellar 30-save shutout performance at Madison Square Garden.
That seals Lundqvist’s legacy as one of the elite netminders to ever don a Blueshirt. In his ninth season as a Ranger, the 32-year-old goaltender is just one win shy of Mike Richter’s franchise record of 301 wins.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Lundqvist reached 300 wins at the fifth-fastest pace ever. He is one of 29 goaltenders in NHL history to reach that mark, and among only six active goaltenders with at least 300 wins.
He also tied another Rangers great, Eddie Giacomin, with his 49th career shutout.
“It’s a great feeling to be up there with those guys,” Lundqvist said while wearing the well-deserved Broadway Hat as the game's MVP. “This organization has been around for so long, so to be up there with them, it’s very special and I’m proud just thinking about it.”
Lundqvist was taken in the seventh round of the 2000 NHL draft -- a steal of a pick -- and he will likely finish his career as a Ranger. He inked a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension earlier this season.
“I have been lucky,” Lundqvist said. “I have been able to be here for almost nine years and play with great defensemen in front of me and teammates and good structure over the years to help me reach that.”
Lundqvist, who was razor-sharp against a desperate Detroit team that is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990, said he didn’t let the milestone win creep into his thoughts -- until after the second period.
By then, it was hard not to consider the possibility.
“I started thinking about it after two periods -- why not go for a doughnut in this game and reach 300 wins?” he said. “It was a good challenge for me.”
With 17 games remaining, it’s hard not to imagine that Lundqvist will soon surpass Richter in the wins column, though Richter still has one thing that Lundqvist does not -- a Stanley Cup championship.
The Rangers are not necessarily considered among the teams to beat in the East right now -- Boston and Pittsburgh remain the top tandem -- but the trade-deadline acquisition of veteran forward Marty St. Louis was a good indication that GM Glen Sather isn’t ruling out a deep playoff push this spring.
The Rangers could be a sleeper team in the East, but they’ll have to play the type of hockey they did in Sunday’s Original Six matchup against the Wings.
Not only was Lundqvist pristine -- his doorstop save vs. Todd Bertuzzi in the second period was as clutch as they come -- but the Rangers also played a sound defensive game in front of him and received contributions from youngster Chris Kreider and their fourth line.
Kreider said Friday’s comeback win against the Carolina Hurricanes was “a gut-check” type of game, and the Rangers were able to use that victory as momentum heading into Sunday’s action.
“I think we’re happy with how we played defensively,” Kreider said. “Obviously, Hank had a huge game and congratulations to him; it’s an amazing accomplishment.”
Both Lundqvist and his teammates hope it’s one of many more to come.
“It’s great for him,” said alternate captain Brad Richards. “He’s been the face of the franchise and will continue to be that, and that’s why.”