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Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers quietly getting the job done

Despite a difficult Game 2 against the Ottawa Senators, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been the centerpiece of competitive teams for years. (Getty Images)

No one was thrown out of the big house on 33rd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

Statements from unnamed employees and ambiguous video lacking sound were not released.

A high-ranking executive did not author passive aggressive tweets against his franchise’s cornerstone player, leaving the athlete to answer questions about his future with the organization.

No, none of that happened. At least not for Madison Square Garden’s other tenant.

While the Knicks are engaged in an unsightly, franchise-damaging soap opera that shows no sign of ending anytime soon, the Rangers completed a four-game homestand by sweeping Calgary, Anaheim, Nashville and league-worst Colorado by an aggregate 16-9.

Their collective success also led to individual glory, as Henrik Lundqvist recorded his 400th NHL win Saturday night.

“I’m just really proud and I’m really thankful for that opportunity,” Lundqvist said after the Rangers’ 4-2 win over the Avalanche.“This organization means so much to me and they’ve given me this opportunity to play a lot of hockey. It’s been 12 years where I’ve been getting a lot of starts and I had a lot of good teammates throughout the years and you think back to them right now obviously because they’re part of it as well.I will definitely enjoy this tonight and kind of reflect a little bit before you go back to work tomorrow morning.”

The Rangers’ foundation since his rookie season of 2005-06, Lundqvist is the first European goaltender to win 400 games according to the NHL. The league, citing Elias Sports Bureau, added Lundqvist is the fastest goaltender to win 400 games. He needed 727 games to do so, and boasts a career mark of 400-242-73, 2.30 goals against average and .920 save percentage.

He needed far less to develop the lasting relationship with the denizens who pack the Garden on a near-nightly basis and chant his name.

“I’m going to tell you that last couple minutes you hear the crowd, you get goosebumps,” Lundqvist said. “It was just like my first game here when they chanted my name.That was 12 years ago.At times it feels surreal that you’re in this moment, that you’re here and playing, and at times you just look at it as your job because you don’t want to complicate it obviously. It’s a lot of fun; I had so much fun here for so many years. When you win here – and we talked about it last week going into this week – winning at MSG. The crowd is really into it and it’s just the best feeling.”

By any appreciable measure, the 2016-17 season has not been among Lundqvist’s best. Entering Monday night’s game against John Tortorella’s Blue Jackets in Columbus, Lundqvist is 26-13-1 with a 2.68 goals against average and .911 save percentage.

But there are signs that Lundqvist, whose play this season has been a significant story, may have sharpened his game. Since Jan. 19, Lundqvist has eight wins in 10 games played along with a 2.01 GAA and .939 save percentage. Moreover, according to ESPN.com, in the Rangers’ five games this month, Lundqvist—who has played in all five—has yielded just 10 goals on 184 shots against and has a .946 save percentage.

“[Lundqvist] worked at this,” Alain Vigneault said Saturday night."He worked a little bit on different things with his game. He’s challenging the shooters a little bit more. For me that’s enabling him right now to play a real solid game. The guys in front of him I think are letting him see the puck a little bit more and boxing out better. So you combine those two things together and you got a goaltender who finds his rhythm and finds his game.”

You can follow Metro New York NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman.

 

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