Once again, Rangers would have had worse result if not for Henrik Lundqvist
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BOSTON - Some Rangers certainly will have a hard time saying they gave everything they had in this series. Henrik Lundqvist is not on that list.
It's safe to say that the Bruins would have swept the Rangers if it wasn't for Lundqvist, and even last night's series-ending 3-1 loss would have been a worse result without the Rangers' goaltender playing another strong game.
But Lundqvist, who made 29 saves Saturday and committed a few of his usual grand thefts, still felt nothing but disappointment after the five-game series defeat in which he was by far the Rangers' best performer.
"It's just an empty feeling," said Lundqvist, whose career postseason record is 30-37, but with a 2.28 goals-against average and .920 save percentage (He entered with a .930 save percentage in his career in elimination games). "Every game they made it tough for us. Normally when we play Boston, I face 13, 14, maybe 15 scoring chances, maybe 30 shots. Every game here, it was over 20 scoring chances, it was a test every game to try to keep it close."
From the Bruins' first shot, Milan Lucic's long-range slapper that Lundqvist grabbed with his glove, to an assortment of other good chances -- Lundqvist robbed Lucic again with the glove in the slot later in the first, and used the glove in the third to make Jaromir Jagr look to the ceiling in disbelief -- the Rangers' Vezina Trophy candidate played strong.
He was equally strong in last season's longer playoff run and a regular season that featured his first Vezina as the league's top goaltender, plus a No. 1 seed in the East for his team. The Rangers were never quite as together during this shortened season, and their lack of cohesion showed even after Lundqvist's back-to-back shutouts rallied the Rangers past the Caps and into this Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Bruins.
In falling behind to Boston 3-0 in the series, Lundqvist allowed five goals in Game 2, a number he hadn't surrendered in his previous 152 games. He gave up only seven the last three games, but a late Game 3 winner that bounced crazily off his mask and off the goal line before being whacked in was just one of the odd moments he and the Rangers never endured during their conference final run in 2012.
"Last year, it was not everything going our way but a lot going our way," he said. "This year, it was a different approach to a lot of games, especially down the stretch. I still felt like in key moments we stepped up as a team and that shows a lot of character, and also in the playoffs. But it wasn't enough and that's disappointing."
Lundqvist, who turned 31 in March and will be entering the final year of his contract, will think about what went wrong. In his eight seasons as the Rangers' goaltender, he has lost in the conference semis three times.
"I expected more," he said. "This game is about winning. When you're winning, you have one feeling. When you're losing, you have another feeling, I hope. I definitely hope we feel more desperation and urgency when we're losing. That's key in hockey.
"Obviously we were in a tough spot, had to win going down the stretch, so obviously it was a different atmosphere around the team."