Henrik Lundqvist sat on the bench with hat slung low over his eyes, shoulders slumped, defeat etched all over his body. He had started 113 straight playoff games for the Rangers, and though he started No. 114 in Game 4 Thursday night against the mighty Penguins, he couldn’t finish it.
And so he watched as Antti Raanta took his place, knowing that his inability to outplay rookie Matt Murray — a 21-year-old with 15 NHL games on his resume — had put the Rangers on the brink of elimination.
Lundqvist allowed three goals in the first period — only the fourth time he’s done that in 115 total playoff games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau — en route to a 5-0 loss. The last time he allowed three in the first period was during a 5-3 loss to the Devils in Game 5 of the conference finals in 2012.
He allowed four goals on 18 shots Thursday night before getting pulled in the second period. “I’m not going to analyze it too much,” Lundqvist said. “It was not good enough. It was a really bad game. I need to be better, simple as that. I don’t need to say more than that.”
It was a deflating performance from someone who undoubtedly has been the Rangers’ most stabilizing force. Lundqvist has the Rangers’ record for most playoff wins with 55 and most minutes played (more than 7,000).
The first Penguins goal came only 1:09 into the game. Lundqvist failed to protect a rebound off a long shot by defenseman Ben Lovejoy, all but gift-wrapping it for a goal by Eric Fehr. Patric Hornqvist scored next on a power play.
Then Conor Sheary thoroughly victimized Kevin Klein with a takeaway near center ice late in the first period. Sheary blazed past the Rangers’ defense, went in alone on a breakaway and beat Lundqvist to make it 3-0.
By the time Evgeni Malkin’s power-play goal on a blistering slap shot — off a behind-the-net feed from Sidney Crosby — hit the back of the net in the second period, Hank was tanked. Lundqvist played a little more than six minutes of the second before getting replaced by Raanta — making his second relief appearance of the playoffs — who allowed a goal of his own to Malkin, who ended up with four points.
“I’ve got some time to think about what I was doing wrong,” Lundqvist said. “Was it a couple tough plays? Yes. But I did not play it how I wanted to play it. I wanted to be better, simple as that.”