Peering over the precipice of Stanley Cup elimination, no Ranger must be more in control of his emotions than goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in Game 4 of the Final tonight at Madison Square Garden. He's fully aware the tide of public sentiment tilted heavily in favor of Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick after his 3-0 Game 3 shutout gave the Kings a 3-0 series lead.
But when Lundqvist looks in the mirror, he sees no need for self-incrimination, no need for major adjustments, no reason to panic. Upon further review, the Kings' first two goals indeed were deflected inadvertently by Rangers teammates.
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"I feel like I've been playing my game," Lundqvist said when asked to evaluate his own performance. "I've been feeling pretty good. But in the end, giving up three or more goals, it's going to be tough to win."
Self-analysis is important for any player, but Lundqvist must be careful not to attempt anything out of character. He believes in the approach that carried the Rangers this deep in the playoffs.
"I feel like I'm in position," Lundqvist said. "I feel like I'm tracking the puck pretty good. But it hasn't been enough, so I'm going to try to raise my level and try to help the team to get the first one [Wednesday night]."
In the moments after Game 3, Lundqvist blamed bad "puck luck" as a major factor not only in that game but in the series. Discussing the Kings' first two goals Monday night, Lundqvist said, "It's some skill, but there's some luck, too. I'm not going to take anything away from them. They're the best team we played so far."
At the same time, Lundqvist insisted, "It's not like we've been outplayed here. That's not been the case."
That belief is what Lundqvist and his Rangers teammates are basing their hopes on becoming the second team in Stanley Cup Fianl history to overcome a 3-0 deficit. In the first round of these playoffs, the Kings climbed out of a 3-0 hole against San Jose, and the Rangers came back from 3-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Pittsburgh.
So a comeback is within the realm of possibility, and no, Lundqvist can't allow himself to think he has to be perfect for 240 minutes of hockey for it to happen. "I need to think about the process," Lundqvist said. "That's stopping the next shot. What do you need to do to stay focused in the right way? That's the kind of mind-set I have."
It's not a one-on-one contest against Quick, but at the same time, Lundqvist is aware of how well his counterpart has played in the big moments of this series. "He made some unreal saves [Monday] night," Lundqvist said of Quick, who made 32 saves in Game 3. "For us to beat them, I have to play well.
"But in the first two games, we're right there scoring goals. The big thing is to have a lot of traffic and get in front . . . to make it a little tougher for him. But he's a really good goalie. I'm going to need my best to try to match that."