It was not an astronomical total, the 33 shots on goal that Henrik Lundqvist faced in Game 1 of the Rangers' first-round series against the Capitals on Wednesday night, especially considering that the game featured 18:24 of overtime.

What made Lundqvist's performance outstanding was the quality of the shots he faced, as he held firm time and again to give the Rangers a chance. Because he could not stop the last one, Alexander Semin's sizzling slapper to the roof of the net, the Rangers enter Friday night needing another stellar performance from their All-Star goaltender. He may even have to be better.

"They are a tough team, no question," Lundqvist said of the top seed in the Eastern Conference Thursday, after the Rangers held a half-hour practice at the Capitals' arena. "They create a lot of scoring chances, and a lot of situations where it's me and the shooter. And they've got some big shooters, too. It's a fun challenge for me. I know I have to play well, but we kind of knew that going into the playoffs. It doesn't matter who you face."

Lundqvist is the biggest reason that the Rangers are confident, no matter whom they face, including a Washington team that has won 17 of 21 games since a 6-0 walloping by the Blueshirts here on Feb. 25.

The Rangers enter Friday night hoping to avoid a 2-0 deficit, especially important considering that they have never come back to win a series after dropping Games 1 and 2 on the road.