GREENBURGH, N.Y. - As Henrik Lundqvist leaned back near his locker Monday, the Doors' "Light My Fire" was playing, which was appropriate. A competitive fire almost always burns for the 33-year-old Rangers goaltender, whose team last May came within a period of returning to the Stanley Cup Final in consecutive years.
But the journey was draining, said Lundqvist, who returned to Sweden and couldn't shake the disappointment and the memories for about a month.
"I felt like I wanted to take my time before I started to skate and work out, to feel like I let last season go," said Lundqvist, who missed 25 games after suffering a vascular injury to his neck on Jan. 31 before returning for the playoffs. "It took probably three or four weeks to let it go, to accept it and then you move on . . . You relive different game situations and you analyze it and you get upset and frustrated . . . Then you come to a point when you move on. You still think about it, but you accept that it's over."
A Presidents' Trophy-winning season ended for the Rangers with a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay at Madison Square Garden in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, as the Lightning scored twice in the third period. Lundqvist made 23 saves, but his teammates couldn't find a way to score.
"I don't only think about the last game, same as the year before against L.A.," Lundqvist said, referring to when the Blueshirts lost the Final to the Kings in five games. "You want to remember the great games we played at the Garden, the big wins we had. There were a lot of good moments leading up to that point. You bring that with you . . . They were both very disappointing. They were both just tough. The Final is always the Final, and we had such a good opportunity last year. You know how close it is. One or two plays make the difference."
Lundqvist, who has been scrimmaging with teammates before camp opens Friday, is pleased that the Rangers have kept the core group and likes the continuing change in the club's attitude.
"The difference now and the past three or four years, I feel like when you get here, you have different expectations on our team that maybe we didn't have my first four or five years," he said. "We were always hoping to be a contender, but now I think we'll expect to be up there. There's a lot of work to get to that point, but I think it's good to put a lot of pressure on yourself and the group . . . You do think about the big picture and the long journey, but when camp starts, you just focus on the first week and then a couple of games. I think that's extremely important."