PITTSBURGH — Antti Raanta did not know much more than the rest of us about Henrik Lundqvist’s injury status in the immediate aftermath of Game 1 of the Rangers’ first-round playoff series against the Penguins.
But at least Raanta, the backup goaltender, had actually seen Lundqvist, the starter, after the Rangers’ 5-2 loss Wednesday night, in which Lundqvist took Marc Staal’s stick blade to his right eye area late in the first period.
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Raanta said Lundqvist already was dressed and ready to go by the time the players reached the locker room.
The big question is whether he will be wearing goalie pads or an expensive suit come Game 2 Saturday.
Raanta does not know. But he promised to be ready if called upon, just as he had Monday when Lundqvist twice left practice with what turned out to be a minor illness.
“Pretty much when you’re a backup you always have to be prepared,” Raanta said of his emergency entrance into the playoff opener, which the Rangers trailed 1-0 at the time.
“Your heartbeat races a little bit, but I just went to the net and we played pretty good. We played a good game and I went there and of course there weren’t too many shots in the first 10 minutes, so it was hard to get into it.
“I just tried to get myself going and got good saves there. But you have to come up big when the team needs you most and I think the [Sidney] Crosby goal late in the second period was a little bit the kind of goal that you should make the save on so we could get to the [second] break 1-0. But it’s hockey, and sometimes that happens.”
Raanta was being a bit too hard on himself. That Crosby goal, with 1:04 left in the second, came on a clean breakaway for one of the best players in the world.
The Penguins added three more goals in the third period, one into an empty net.
Raanta said that while the rest of Rangers World understandably reacted emotionally to the sight of Lundqvist on the ice, writhing in pain, he had to think only about the task at hand.
“I was just trying to focus on my own thing and see all the shots and move like I have been moving and try to make simple saves,” he said. “I was just trying to focus myself.”
Raanta had not appeared in the playoffs before Wednesday — the same as his counterpart, the Penguins’ Jeff Zatkoff.
They could have a rematch Saturday afternoon that no one saw coming.