A 4-3 loss to the Panthers. A 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins. And tonight, a 3-2 Rangers loss to the Devils, in which Henrik Lundqvist was pulled with under five minutes to play in the second period after allowing three goals on 12 shots.
“We probably could’ve have five out of six points,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella. “Let’s call a spade a spade. Our goaltending hasn’t been there. Certainly not at the level it needs to be at this time of year….I’m not calling out Hank, but I need to be honest. Our goaltending hasn’t been good enough. We’ve played some good hockey, I think we get probably five out if the six points if it’s just decent goaltending.”
Lundqvist, who had faced the Devils’ Martin Brodeur 28 times during the regular season and almost always emerged on the plus side: 19-4-5 with a 1.69 GAA, a .939 save percentage and four shutouts, didn’t have it, and admitted as much.
“Some weird goals lately and some bad goals,” said Lundqvist, who likely will back up Martin Biron Saturday at Bell Centre in Montreal, where he has struggled. “The next couple of days I’m going to work really hard and get my game going. I haven’t been practicing much with the (All-Star) break. If I’m going to get more minutes here, I need to be better. I’m not upset for getting pulled, I know I have to play better. It’s a big game…I feel low on energy here.”
Lundqvist left after Brian Rolston’s high slapper whizzed by as he was down in a split as the Devils (8-1-1 in the last 10) upped their lead to 3-0. The Blueshirts No. 1 goaltender never seemed comfortable, fighting the puck from the start, and despite a 5 on 3 goal from Vinny Prospal---at 2:21 of the third in his first game of the season following October knee surgery---and Ryan Callahan’s second in two games, the Devils hung on. With 0.8 seconds left in regulation and Biron on the bench for an extra attacker, Brandon Dubinsky’s deflection of Callahan’s shot hit the far post and bounced away as time ran out.
Just 1:04 into the game at Madison Square Garden, Ilya Kovalchuk’s wrister from the outside of the right circle tipped Mike Sauer's knee and rose off the cross bar and in.
The Rangers held the Devils to one shot in 40 seconds of a 5-on-3 when Brandon Prust joined Marc Staal in the box at 11:20 of the first. In that sequence, Lundqvist gloved Kovalchuk’s slapper and appeared to twist his glove hand. Trainer Jim Ramsay came out for a look and Lundqvist remained in the game. Perhaps Tortorella wishes he had replaced him then.
The ugly goal against Lundqvist came at 8:01 of the second, when he couldn’t squeeze his pads quite enough and Dainius Zubrus’ slapper got through. As the puck began to trickle behind him, Dan Girardi’s swipe at the goal line went off Lundqvist and in for a 2-0 advantage.
The Rangers were 0-for-5 on the 5-on 4 but came close. With an open net in the six seconds of the first, Dubinsky---in an awkward position---flicked the puck off the crossbar. “Tough breaks,” he said. “We have to find a way to cash in a couple opportunities.”