Henrik Lundqvist and Matt Murray do not have much in common, starting with the fact Lundqvist has played in 114 playoff games and Murray has played in one.
But both goaltenders for Thursday’s Game 4 of the first-round series between the Rangers and Penguins are not embarrassed to admit they will be antsy before the pivotal game. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
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“I always get nervous,” Lundqvist said Wednesday after an optional practice at Madison Square Garden. “It doesn’t matter if it’s preseason, or the regular season, playoffs. Of course, you feel a little bit more in the playoffs. It’s more exciting, too.
“You have to feel more pressure. You’re more nervous, more anxious. But it’s also a great feeling. You see great opportunities in the playoffs, too. The stakes are higher and you try to enjoy that moment, too.”
If Lundqvist, 34, feels that way, it comes as no surprise Murray, 21, does, too.
When someone asked after practice whether he got the nervousness out of his system in his playoff debut Tuesday, he chuckled and said, “No, I don’t think so. No. It’s the NHL playoffs. I get butterflies before every game. It’s just the last game, definitely more so.”
The states of the opposing goalies’ minds is relevant because in theory Lundqvist should provide a huge edge for the Rangers over Murray and the Penguins’ other inexperienced goalie, Jeff Zatkoff. (No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury remains “day-to-day” with post-concussion symptoms.)
So the fact that the Penguins got a 3-1 victory out of Murray’s debut was a boost on multiple levels. Still, the young goalie expects the Rangers to do whatever is necessary to make him work harder than they did in Game 2.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Murray said. “Nobody wants only 17 shots on net, I don’t think, in a game. I’m sure that will be a point of emphasis for their team. Yeah, I would expect a little more.”
It helps that for a man his age Murray seems to possess not only admirable skill but also calm once he takes to the ice.
“He’s showed a lot of poise,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby said. “That’s not an easy situation to come into.”
Said Murray: “I thought I stayed composed. It think it was a pretty good moment and I didn’t allow it to get bigger than myself. I liked my composure.”
The Rangers need not concern themselves with Lundqvist’s composure after all the battles he has endured, including 10 playoff appearances in his 11 seasons and eight series victories in the past four years.
But here he and the Rangers go again, down in a series and trying to stay above ice water, as they have so many times in the recent past. Do those experiences help Lundqvist in these situations?
“Well, you learn from every year, every series, every game,” he said. “But right now you don’t think so much about it; you just try to focus on tomorrow and try to do your best job possible to try to turn it around. You don’t rely too much on what you’ve done in the past.
“Through the experience you know how to approach different situations. In the playoffs a big part is the mental aspect — how you approach it, the pressure, how you get ready before. Obviously, you use that.”