OTTAWA — If the idea was to give Henrik Lundqvist enough work to prepare for the playoffs, then it’s mission accomplished.
For the Rangers, it was another game with nothing to play for. Seven regulars were rested in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Senators. Lundqvist, who was severely tested by the Senators (who are fighting for home-ice advantage in the first round), made 30 saves, some of them of the highlight-reel variety.
The loss came complete with a scare, albeit short-lived, early in the second period.
Just 17 seconds in, Mike Hoffman’s slap shot struck Lundqvist in the left shoulder, and it stung. He winced, went to his knees in pain, but played on. He made two saves soon after and then stopped Cody Ceci and Jean-Gabriel Pageau before Hoffman, from between the circles, scored the first goal of the game at 3:04.
“It hurts for a minute or two and then you don’t think about it,” said Lundqvist, who has played six straight games and will sit out the regular-season finale against the Penguins on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
“In the end, I can’t rate my games by wins and losses,’’ he added. “I have to rate my game on the way I move and make saves . . . to give us a chance. Some games you win and you’re not happy, some games you lose but you’re still happy with your performance. I think the last couple games, I’ve been feeling pretty good. It’s moving in the right direction.’’
In addition to losing their defensive structure after the first period and allowing too many shots from in front, the Rangers, who have scored one goal in their last two games, didn’t generate enough chances. They finished with only 19 shots against Craig Anderson.
“Their scoring chances were in front,” Lundqvist said. “We did a really good job in Washington [in a 2-0 loss on Thursday]. Today we got away from [our structure]. That made it a tough game.”
With the Rangers trailing 1-0, their best chance came after Kevin Hayes missed with his shot on a two-on-one, retrieved the puck behind the net and found Michael Grabner, who hit the crossbar over Anderson.
Two former Rangers then combined on the second Ottawa goal. Viktor Stalberg dropped a pass near the left circle to Derick Brassard on a rush, and Brassard’s wrister beat Lundqvist stick-side at 9:24 of the second. Pageau’s tip-in at 6:19 of the third put the Senators up by three.
Mika Zibanejad, in his first game back in Ottawa since being traded for Brassard in July, scored on a wraparound with 44.4 seconds left.
“I thought the first period was good,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We did what we wanted to do defensively. The second period, they took their game to another level and we couldn’t follow.”
Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, Jesper Fast and Nick Holden sat out for the second straight game. Derek Stepan was given the day off, as was defenseman Marc Staal. Ryan McDonagh, who practiced on Friday, was rested for the fourth straight game.
“These games are hard to play in,” Dan Girardi said. “Maybe let off the gas a little too much. In the second, when we had the puck, we were kind of standing still . . . I think we have enough older guys in the room to let the younger guys know [the playoffs] are not going to be like the last couple games, and [they] need to think about their games.
“Hopefully we can have a good team effort [today] and get on the horse and get going.”