NEW YORK — It was nine years ago when Henrik Lundqvist, then a rookie, was making his first debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had just come off an incredible Gold Medal win in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy when he headed into his first playoff game. But winning the coveted prize didn’t come so early in his career. That first year, they were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Eight years later, he found himself in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings. Unfortunately, that was not his year either. The Kings took home the coveted prize and the Rangers came home with nothing in hand but great memories of an incredible run to the Stanley Cup Final. This was the first time Lundqvist had ever made it that far.
Saturday, he found himself in an all-too familiar moment: standing in the Eastern Conference finals with the hope that this will finally be the year he gets to lift the Stanley Cup. He’s not the only one.
Dominic Moore was also a rookie alongside Lundqvist back in 2005-06. While he’s been shuttled around from team to team (8 in total) before returning to the Rangers in 2013, his return to the Rangers has been very positive for the team. After taking some time off after losing his wife, Katie, to liver cancer, his return to hockey won him the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2014. He also went deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs with the Rangers.
This year, these two Rangers that started off their rookie seasons together are now seven wins away from the Stanley Cup for the second straight year in a row.
“This time of the year, the way [Moore] plays,” Martin St. Louis said of his teammate. “He becomes even more important. He’s a guy that can really grind it out and be tough to play against. He brings a lot of pucks to the net and protects the puck really well. I’ve had a chance to play with him in Tampa in the playoffs. He was a key contributor then, last year he was a key contributor, and again this year. This is the kind of play we need from everybody, but I’m glad [Moore] got rewarded tonight.”
“I think the routines he has, the way he prepares,” Lundqvist said of Moore. “He’s a true pro, I think. I’m all about preparation and to see him, almost being like a goalie with everything he does to prepare himself and to get into the right place going into every game, I think that’s the way he’s been so consistent throughout his career, as well. He brings his game to a level that’s helping the team every night in faceoffs, making great plays and now, he’s getting more minutes. He deserves it the way he’s playing right now.”
In the 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, Moore was responsible for the game winning goal. After being called for tripping at 15:05 in the third period, his teammates were able to stave off the Lightning in what was their best penalty kill of the game. Moore came out of the penalty box, and in those next 30 seconds, he was able to generate a chance and score at 17:35.
Derek Stepan scored late in the second period to start the scoring off in the game, but Tampa Bay was able to tie up the game at 6:45 on a power play in the third period from Ondrej Palat. Moore’s game winner sealed the Rangers’ first win in the series.
The key to the Rangers successful win in the first game of the series had to deal with taking a day off to reflect on the Washington Capitals series and then spending a day preparing for the Lightning by studying their first two rounds of the series.
“I think it’s always a big concern when you play a Game 7 like that in overtime and everything on the line,” Lundqvist said of switching gears after playing in such an emotional series against the Washington Capitals. “The good thing is we had two days. The day off you can reflect and process everything, and then yesterday [we] had a full day of just preparation, practice and meetings. They really get your head in the right place, so I think that helped us be ready here. There should not be any excuses when you come out here. You have to be ready. You have to know what to expect.”
If things go the way they are going for the Rangers, Lundqvist and Moore, along with the rest of their team, may finally get to lift the Holy Grail together for the first time. They are seven wins away from doing just that.
Game Two will be on Monday, May 18th at Madison Square Garden.