It’s been more than a decade since a goalie was as perfect over Games 6 and 7 of a playoff series as Henrik Lundqvist was for the New York Rangers against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
Yes, Lundqvist certainly had help, including goals from some unlikely teammates. Still, there is one key reason the Rangers are heading to the Eastern Conference semifinals and a date with the Boston Bruins.
‘‘Henrik Lundqvist,’’ Capitals forward Troy Brouwer said. ‘‘Plain and simple.’’
Led by Lundqvist’s 35 saves in a second consecutive shutout, the Rangers beat the host Capitals, 5-0, in an anticlimactic finale of a tight seven-game series Monday night, eliminating Washington for the second year in a row.
‘‘Goaltending is the big thing,’’ said Arron Asham, a fourth-line winger whose goal gave him a pair for the series, twice as many as two-time NHL MVP Ovechkin. ‘‘Hank’s been our backbone all year.’’
The last NHL goalie to pull off the double shutouts in Games 6-7 was Detroit’s Dominik Hasek in 2002 against Colorado.
‘‘There’s moments where you enjoy it and you think ‘Wow, this is great.’ And you have fun. But there’s also moments where you don’t feel great. You feel the pressure and you just want to get it done, so badly,’’ Lundqvist said. ‘‘You try to control your emotions. That’s the key for me. I'm an emotional guy when I play. I try to just stay calm. Good or bad. I just try to stay calm and focus on my thing.’’
He did that rather well on Sunday and Monday, lifting his career postseason shutout total to eight.
Lundqvist, Ovechkin said, did an ‘‘unbelievable job; he makes incredible saves.’’
By winning a Game 7 on the road for the first time in its history, New York completed its comeback after trailing in the series 2-0 and 3-2 — the latest in Washington’s long history of playoff collapses.
Rick Nash was held without a goal by Washington, but New York found other scorers. Asham put New York ahead in the first period, before Taylor Pyatt and Michael Del Zotto made it 3-0 early in the second on goals 2:10 apart. Ryan Callahan added a goal 13 seconds into the third period, and when Mats Zuccarello scored with about 13½ minutes remaining, thousands of red-clad fans streamed to the exits.
Soon after, when Lundqvist fell forward to smother a puck, chants of ‘‘Hen-reeek! Hen-reeek!’’ from the no-longer-outnumbered Rangers supporters rose in the arena.
While Callahan did have 16 goals this season, the other four Rangers who put pucks past Braden Holtby on Monday combined for a total of only 14.
‘‘You need your third and fourth lines to get some goals to win games,’’ Asham said, ‘‘and it was proven tonight.’’
Also made clear: Lundqvist gives the Rangers a chance to win every game. From the moment Mike Ribeiro’s overtime goal gave Washington a Game 5 victory, Lundqvist was simply superb.
The Swede stopped all 62 shots he faced in Games 6 and 7, showing exactly why he won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie last season and is a finalist this season.
Ovechkin was held without a point in Games 3-7. The Russian wing led the NHL with 32 goals, but he heads into the offseason after the longest playoff point drought of his career. He had a goal in Game 1, an assist in Game 2, and that was it.
Since the start of the 2008 playoffs — when Washington’s core of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green made their postseason debuts — the Capitals have appeared in nine series, and this was the seventh to last the full seven games. Going back to 1985, the Capitals have lost nine series in which the club led either 2-0 or 3-1.
‘‘Nobody is yelling at each other here. Nobody was pointing a figure that it was somebody’s fault we [lost]the game. It’s everybody’s fault,’’ Ovechkin said. ‘‘All the guys’ fault. My fault. [Backstrom's]. It’s everybody. It’s not about one person or two people. It’s about the team.’’
Truthfully, not much anyone on his team could do Sunday or Monday with the way Lundqvist performed.
‘‘We threw the kitchen sink at him at times, and he stood there and defended,’’ Green said. ‘‘He’s a great goaltender. We knew that.’’
. . .
After seven games, four overtimes, three trips to California, countless momentum swings, and a few frantic minutes at the close of Game 7, the Red Wings finally finished off Anaheim on Sunday.
Henrik Zetterberg scored an early goal and made a late mistake, but Detroit survived to earn a second-round series much closer to home.
Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula each had a goal and an assist, and the Red Wings eliminated the Ducks with a 3-2 victory Sunday night.
Justin Abdelkader scored a shorthanded goal and Jimmy Howard made 31 saves as the seventh-seeded Red Wings won three of the first-round series’ final four games to oust the Ducks.