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Henrik Lundqvist has hands full in Lightning's onslaught

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers looks on after giving up a goal to Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first period during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 20, 2015 in Tampa, Fla. Credit: Getty Images / Bruce Bennett

TAMPA, Fla. - Henrik Lundqvist simply does not give up six goals in back-to-back games. It happened this regular season, in games 2 and 3 of the 2014-15 campaign, and that was a first for his decade-long run.

Now it's happened for the first time in his long postseason career. And the worst part for Rangers fans, now that their team trails 2-1 in this Eastern Conference finals, is that Lundqvist played superbly for just about all of Game 3.

Which means The King may not be enough to derail Tampa's insanely good offense. The Lightning already dumped Montreal's Carey Price, the surefire Vezina and Hart Trophy winner this season, out of the tournament in the previous round.

It is halfway to taking out Lundqvist, the other Eastern Conference goaltender besides Price who defines excellence.

"We had some pretty good chances tonight and it doesn't matter who's in net when we get those," the Lightning's Steven Stamkos said. "Backdoor plays, shots off the rush. We're going to score when we get those kinds of chances. And if we continue to get them, we should continue to score."

That's the sort of confidence and bravado you usually hear from the Rangers this time of year, because they have Lundqvist backstopping whatever they do. And you can look at some of the stops he made in Game 3 and not be wrong to think he was as good as he's ever been to simply keep this game alive.

He stopped Alex Killorn in the first period from the exact same spot, the faceoff circle to the goaltender's left, that Killorn scored the dagger fourth goal in the third period of Tampa's 6-2 win in Game 2.

In Monday's game, Lundqvist heavily committed to Victor Hedman, whose shot fake and diagonal pass to Killorn gave the Lightning wing an empty net. Lundqvist, at 33 still a learning student in goal, knew where Killorn was Wednesday night as a power play ticked down, making sure not to commit to Hedman and shuttling over to stop Killorn.

There were breakaway saves on Killorn and J.T. Brown, the latter in overtime that was as confident a stop as any of Lundqvist's 34 in the game. Nikita Kucherov's winner was one The King would surely like back, but then he might like his teammates to have his back a bit more than they did on any of Tampa's five regulation goals, when Lightning players were swooping through the Rangers' zone to create immense gaps and fire off shots almost at will.

"I have to be better," Lundqvist said after the game. "I have to be more consistent."

These are probably the same words Lundqvist spoke back on Oct. 14, after the Islanders lit him up for four third-period goals in a 6-3 Rangers' loss two nights after the Leafs dumped the Rangers by the same score.

But that was barely a week into the season, before Lundqvist even had a chance to get settled. He is more than settled in now, midway through his third conference final in four years, but it doesn't seem to matter much.

The Lightning's offense has simply been that good.

"We executed really well tonight, we made it tough on their D and we got so many chances -- and we executed when we had those chances," the Lightning's Anton Stralman said. "This was our best game so far."

The Lightning's skilled scorers are feeling their oats right now, without a care in the world who's in the opposing goal and what accolades he's earned. For a Rangers team built on structure and positional discipline, these two games have been a pair of nightmares at just the wrong time.

Perhaps Lundqvist can indeed be better. It's not wise to bet against him. But even The King at his best may not be enough to slow the Lightning.

New York Sports