The chaos, said Henrik Lundqvist, was mounting.
With five minutes to play Monday night, the Rangers were desperately trying to hang on to a 1-0 lead, on the road, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
“People everywhere,” said Lundqvist, who made 39 saves for his fourth career playoff shutout that provided the Rangers with a 2-1 series lead. “You try to stay calm, and make good decisions; I think we all felt we needed this, we needed to close this one off.”
Through two periods, Lundqvist, with 25 stops, and Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, with 16, engaged in a scoreless duel in a swing game for the series, one that would wrest the home-ice advantage in the seven-game series back for the Rangers. Game 4 is in Ottawa on Wednesday.
“I just had a feeling the next goal would be huge,” said Lundqvist, “so I told a few guys, I was still upset about the last game (a 3-2 overtime loss at Madison Square Garden), two fluky bounces. So going into this one, I was determined and then when (Brian) Boyle scored the big goal, I said, ‘Okay, let’s get it done, we can’t let two slip away.’ ’’
Just before Boyle’s backhander at 7:35 of the third period---his team-leading third of the series and eighth in 12 games---Lundqvist made two critical stops on Colin Greening. Then, in a third period when Lundqvist stopped all 14 shots, Anderson was pulled with 1:15 left, Lundqvist made a final one, on Kyle Turris at the doorstep.
“In the end, he was the rock,” said Brad Richards. “You knew they were going to make that push in the last five minutes and he stood tall.”
The tightly-contested game had little of the vitriol and vicious hits that marred Game 2. With Carl Hagelin serving a three-game suspension for a high hit that knocked Senators captain Daniel Alfredssson out of Game 2 with a concussion, it also featured the NHL debut of Chris Kreider, the 6-foot-3, 217-pound Boston College star who signed an entry-level contract last Tuesday. Alfredsson, 39, was scratched.
“I came from college, so it was a huge jump,” said Kreider, 20, who had just two full practices. “It was hard to prepare for the first period…I just wanted to move my feet and I did, almost to the point where I was wearing myself out. I’ve got to pick my spots a little better than I did.” He played 11:11 with Richards and Marian Gaborik, and watched a lot of the third period.
“We had a lot of chances to get one goal,” said Ottawa coach Paul MacLean. “We just didn’t get a bounce, and they did.”
Early in the second, Lundqvist stopped rapid-fire shots from Jim O’Brien and Erik Condra, but was out of position for a rebound to his right. Defenseman Stu Bickel saved a goal when he got his right arm on O’Brien’s wrister. “I was late for the pass, didn’t see it,” said Lundqvist. “Bicks had just a great block.”
With 7:09 left in regulation, the momentum could have changed. Ottawa forward Zach Smith, trying to cross the blue line, was tripped up by Ryan Callahan. But while killing the penalty, Boyle stormed in on a semi-breakaway, pursued down the right side by defenseman Chris Phillips, who hacked Boyle's left arm and was sent off, ending the power play.
With 8:51 left in the second period, the Rangers just missed taking the lead when Anderson kicked out a shot and the rebound rolled along the goal line before he could cover it up. The play was reviewed at the next stoppage: No goal.
Asked when he knew one goal might decide the game, MacLean said: “About 10:30 this morning.” Eleven 11 hours later, he was right.
“Hank was there,” said coach John Tortorella. “We had the identity we’ve tried to cultivate, but everytime he plays, it starts with him.”