GREENBURGH, N.Y. - It had been almost three days since Alec Martinez's goal, almost three days since Henrik Lundqvist laid his mask down on the ice and faced the cold, hard truth that his season once again was over earlier than he wanted it to be.
Lundqvist, sporting a slight sunburn and a Rangers cap, spoke to reporters Monday about his team's double-overtime loss to the Kings in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Three days. That isn't a lot of time for perspective, but it was enough for Lundqvist to accept what happened and start thinking about what the team has to do.
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"It kills you, but you just have to get up and try and do it again," he said about the pain of getting within three victories of winning his first Stanley Cup. "It's definitely tough when you are that close."
The Rangers lost three overtime games in Los Angeles, two in double overtime. After this run, there can be little doubt that Lundqvist is the NHL's best goalie during the past decade not to have won a Stanley Cup. He had 40 saves in the team's only win over Los Angeles. In the final two games, he stopped all but four of the 92 shots he faced.
"With Hank back there, we always thought we could win," center Brian Boyle said.
After cleaning out his locker Monday, Lundqvist was headed home to Sweden to spend time with friends and family. He believes the space will give him the perspective he needs to start healing from the way the season ended. He already is beginning to look to the future and he believes the team will build on this experience.
"I think it's going to mean a lot to us players and to the organization," he said. "If you look at the last three years, we are on track. We've done a lot of good things . . . It raises your expectations for next year. You want to be there [again] and you really want to challenge yourself."
Individually, Lundqvist said he has few regrets about the season. "I'm happy with the way I played, especially in the second half of the season," he said. "I really tried to challenge myself to leave everything out there."
Still, he admits it will be a while before he can stop replaying Martinez's championship-clinching goal in his head.
"Eventually you have to stop," he said. "You still think about it. You still think about every game. Why did it go that way? It's going to be like that for a couple of weeks. Every season, you keep thinking about different things and try to learn from it. I think this season, it's going to take me a little longer to get through that step."