There is a chasm that has grown so large the rarified air the Rangers are starting to smell is scented by a silver chalice, not too far out of reach.

And Henrik Lundqvist can taste it, can imagine the shimmer of the Stanley Cup, can visualize his reflection among the names of greats — and he can do that, because he always knew nights like Monday at the Bell Centre were to come.

“You have to believe in yourself,” he said, recognizing all the bad times that came early in the season, times that were so far a distant memory after a 3-1 dismantling of the Canadiens in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final.

Lundqvist made 40 saves, turning away all 19 shots in the third period, his team taking a commanding 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series that goes back to the Garden for Game 3 on Thursday.
“You have to believe in your teammates,” he continued. “You definitely have to see yourself do well before you can do it because you have to kind of see yourself go somewhere.

“You know,” he said, “that’s what I did.”

What Lundqvist did on this night was more than lift his team, but lift his own mythical status, one that remains utterly incomplete without even a showing in a Stanley Cup final.

But the legend grows in concert with the advantage Lundqvist gives his Rangers in net, ever so pronounced now that the Canadiens are without their counterpoint, starting netminder Carey Price, who will miss at least the rest of this series with a presumed right-leg injury suffered when Chris Kreider slammed into him in the second period of the Rangers’ 7-2 Game 1 rout.

“You know what?” asked Montreal coach Michel Therrien. “The reason why we lost the game tonight was Lundqvist. Lundqvist was phenomenal. Phenomenal. Stole the game.”

And Lundqvist’s performance helped the Rangers snap an NHL-record 13-game losing streak in games that followed them taking a playoff series lead; a feat that had happened four times already this postseason.

Therrien did all he could to stir up a controversy on Monday morning, saying he thought Kreider’s feet-first slide into Price was “a reckless play” and adding, “this is not the first time [Kreider] is going at goalies. We lost our best player.”

And after Therrien was forced to start 24-year-old rookie Dustin Tokarski, he of 10 career NHL appearances, there was little more he could do than shake his head.

“To win a hockey game, you need breaks, and you need calls,” Therrien said. “Right now we don’t have those breaks.”