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Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers have not fared well in Washington

Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals and

Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals and Derek Stepan #21 of the New York Rangers battle for the puck in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. (May 2, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- On a sultry May morning downtown, the Rangers found little relief in Verizon Center.

"It's humid, it always is in here," Henrik Lundqvist said after Wednesday's morning skate as the Blueshirts prepared for Game 3 in the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Capitals.

In most cases, Lundqvist is a cool customer on and off the ice, often providing the saving grace for the low-scoring Rangers and then dealing with wave after wave of media, and providing answers in both English and Swedish.

But with the best-of-seven series against the Capitals tied at one, and with the next two games in a building where Lundqvist has finished on the short end of the scoreboard for the last five postseason games dating to 2009, the 30-year-old goaltender preferred not to dwell on the past -- and especially Caps winger Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin played just 13 minutes but scored the 3-2 game winner on a top-shelf wrister in the third period Monday night at Madison Square Garden, and his ice time has been a hot topic in sports circles here.

Lundqvist was asked if he noticed that Ovechkin only played 13 minutes. "No, and I don't really care, either," Lundqvist said sharply. "Honestly, I'm focusing on my game, what we have to do. If he plays 20 or 10 or 5 or 30, I don't really care."

Caring aside, Lundqvist likely wouldn't remember the last time the Rangers beat the Capitals in a playoff game on the road. The Rangers last won a playoff game at Verizon Center on April 18, 2009, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, 1-0. Before that, their last road playoff win against Washington was on May 5, 1994, when goaltender Mike Richter and the Blueshirts beat the Caps, 3-0, at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md., in Game 3 of the conference semifinals. Mark Messier, Brian Leetch and Steve Larmer were the scorers. Lundqvist was 12 years old.

In meeting the Capitals for the third time in four years, Lundqvist did concede that he felt a familiar vibe in the visitors' locker room. "Yes, a little bit maybe, the history, the games we had this year," he said, "but all that matters to me right now is tonight. I thought we played pretty good the other night, so we just have to continue that work and hopefully take charge here."

Lundqvist is trying his best to do so. He allowed two or fewer goals in six of the first nine postseason games. In the last five games, he had allowed eight goals and was 3-2 with a 1.61 GAA and .937 save percentage.

In a similar situation, Game 3 of the first round, with the Rangers tied with the Senators 1-1, Lundqvist made 35 saves and blanked the Senators, 1-0. "You don't really think about that series," he said. "You just focus on tonight. We did a lot of good things the other night. But it's a tough building and they're a good team, especially at home they play well, but we feel good, we feel confident."

Since 1994, when Messier captained the Blueshirts to the Stanley Cup, ending a 54-year drought, the Rangers have advanced past the second round only once, in 1997, but were eliminated by the Flyers, 4-1, in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Blueshirts, who rallied from being down to Ottawa three games to two by winning Games 6 and 7 in the conference quarterfinals, opened this series with a 3-1 victory on Saturday at the Garden, then fell to the Senators on Monday.

In their practice Wednesday, Capitals coach Dale Hunter juggled lines by moving Ovechkin back with center Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson, who together have 14 points in the playoffs.

"I expect to have a lot of traffic and a lot of people in front of me," Lundqvist said. "In the playoffs, you try to get more bodies in front and create chances from just rebounds or throwing pucks in there, so I just expect it. That will be part of my game and probably their strategy."

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