Henrik Lundqvist kept on his toes by dangerous Capitals
GREENBURGH, N.Y. - After three games against Alex Ovechkin & Co. in five days, Henrik Lundqvist knows the rhythm and the challenge.
"You have to prove yourself every second night here," Lundqvist said Tuesday as the Rangers prepared for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Wednesday night. "It doesn't matter if you had a good game or a great game the night before, you just have to go out and prove it again."
Lundqvist made some critical, game-changing stops in Game 3, which the Rangers won, 4-3, on Derek Stepan's third-period deflection to give them a chance to square the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
"I feel pretty good," Lundqvist said. "The games are really taxing. They create a lot of big scoring chances; you have to be confident, you have to be on your toes at all times. They get to know me, I get to know them . . . Of course, I know what to expect, I just try to be consistent with my game. If they would change their game, I would not. Hopefully, it has a good result."
In the last six Game 4s at Madison Square Garden, Lundqvist is 5-1, starting in 2007, beating Atlanta, Buffalo, New Jersey, Pittsburgh and then Washington in 2009. In 2011, the Rangers lost, 4-3, to the Capitals in double overtime. In 2012, all the Game 4s were on the road.
Because of the Capitals' big bodies and willingness to fire from all angles, Lundqvist said: "You work even harder to track the puck down. The last two minutes [of Game 3, with the Caps on a six-on-four], I think I saw the puck for maybe 15 seconds, there's so many people in front. We came up with some huge blocks and good reads and that's what you need in those situations."
Lundqvist enjoys playing at home and hopes for more contributions from players such as Arron Asham, who ripped a one-timer for a 3-2 lead in Game 3. "Facing him in practice every day, I know he's one of the better shooters on the team," Lundqvist said. "It's the time of the year when the best lines, the best players, face some really tough pairs on the other sides, so if you have other lines stepping up, it's huge. If you look at teams on successful runs, they have three or four lines going pretty well, so that's a good thing."
Notes & quotes: Rick Nash was given a maintenance day. He was favoring his right leg when he missed a check on Caps defenseman Mike Green and hit the boards in the closing seconds of the second period . . . Marc Staal was sore from his first game since March 5 but in good spirits and reported no setbacks with his vision . . . Darroll Powe, who left Game 3 woozy after a collision with Joel Ward, did not skate and is likely out Wednesday night . . . Ryane Clowe took another step toward a return. He was in some battles in practice, the first time he had contact since a high hit from Carolina's Bobby Sanguinetti on April 25. Clowe wants to be sure that if he plays, he won't be forced out midgame. If Clowe isn't ready, the Rangers will dress a spare forward from the taxi squad, which includes Chris Kreider.