Perfect Henrik Lundqvist says he could be better
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NEWARK -- There's no outward frustration from the Devils, no carryover after Henrik Lundqvist's 36-save, grand- theft performance to help the Rangers to a 2-1 series lead on the strength of his second shutout in the Eastern Conference finals.
But there's no doubting who won this one for the Rangers. Even the Devils know as much.
"We're not the first team that Lundqvist has done this to," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think their goalie was the difference."
And Lundqvist, fierce competitor that he is, was chiding himself after the game -- he's the first Rangers goaltender since Mike Richter in the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinal against the Devils to record two shutouts in a series -- for committing too soon on both of Ilya Kovalchuk's breakaway chances early in the second period.
He made a flopping, outstretched save on Kovalchuk's first break-in, in the opening minute of the second, that was reminiscent of some of Martin Brodeur's best stops. Lundqvist also went down early on Kovalchuk's next try, though Marc Staal forced Kovalchuk wide and the Devils winger missed the net.
"A couple times I wasn't patient enough, I went down and had to make a glove save on my side. And that's not really the way I want to make a save," Lundqvist said. "A little lucky there that he didn't roof it. But the timing was good, but I need to be more patient. I'm happy I made the save and hopefully it sparked the guys a little bit."
There were more than just the half dozen stops on Kovalchuk: Lundqvist got his arm on Petr Sykora's half-breakaway 8:33 into the second, and he closed his pads with perfect body position on Dainius Zubrus' one-timer barely half a minute after Kovalchuk's breakaway in the second.
That last save prompted John Tortorella to call timeout and exhort his team to pick up its pace. While he delivered an intense bench-side speech, Lundqvist stayed in his net. He didn't need to do anything better.
"It's a bit of our personality. I think Henrik, I've always said that about him, that's a bit of who we are," Tortorella said. "And I think Henrik displays that, how he does compete. And he's a great competitor as far as his preparation and as far as what he does for this hockey club."
This was similar to Game 1, when Lundqvist kept the scoreboard clean until his teammates elevated their game in the third. It was similar to Game 3 in the opening round in Ottawa when Lundqvist stopped all 39 shots in a 1-0 win that was scoreless going into the third.
He is the Rangers' constant, and he is the only Ranger who has played nine strong periods so far in this series that's now halfway to a Stanley Cup final berth.
"It's just 2-1 in the series," Lundqvist said. "You have to start over in the next game and try to do the right thing again. But on Monday it's not going to mean anything. You have to start over and earn that respect again, and hopefully you say the same thing after that game."