OTTAWA — In a locker room of shell-shocked Rangers jamming gear into bags and quickly exiting for a bus to the flight home, Henrik Lundqvist took his time and prepared to shoulder the blame for the breakdowns in Saturday’s 6-5 double-overtime loss that dropped the Blueshirts into an 0-2 hole in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“I felt like I wasn’t moving as well as I was in other games,” said Lundqvist, who at times looked the way he did late in the regular season when he was coming back from a hip muscle strain: a little unsteady, a fraction of a second behind and unable to control some rebounds.
Lundqvist allowed six goals on 34 shots, including two deflections from Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the last minutes of regulation, as the Rangers cracked under pressure from the Senators. Pageau — who scored four goals — beat Lundqvist cleanly on a two-on-one with Alexandre Burrows to win it.
Lundqvist didn’t scold the defense or lament any lack of scoring. After all, the Rangers led 5-3 with less than 3 1⁄2 minutes left in regulation before the roof caved in, first at 16:41 and then at 18:58 with Craig Anderson pulled for an extra attacker.
“He [Pageau] was good tonight, made some good plays. It’s two good plays by them, but I wasn’t good enough,” Lundqvist said. “I need to make that extra save at the end. That’s my job. I know it’s tough to play deflections, but I’ve got to find a way.”
Even up two goals, he said, “you’re never 100 percent sure or safe or comfortable. You just play the game and try to stay in it, but all it takes is two deflections. You sort of have it under control, but it’s a quick play, and it’s obviously hard to defend, too.”
It’s not all on Lundqvist, though. Whether it was the first defense pair or the fourth line, the Rangers didn’t find a way to stop the bleeding, nor could their big guns score in overtime.
“Obviously, we played well enough to win this game, so it’s really tough to lose this one,” Lundqvist said. “Clearly, they’ve got the bounces in the first two games. We’ve just got to get home and regroup. It’s a really tough loss, being up two goals, especially late in the game.”
Every player, and coach Alain Vigneault, understands that The King can have a subpar game. Some efforts, such as his 41 saves on 43 shots in Game 1 of this series, or the 54-save performance in Montreal in the first round, seem superhuman. On Saturday afternoon, Lundqvist was human.
“Like the rest of our team, he tried real hard,” Vigneault said, “but we’re going to have to get over this game and get ready.”
His players have no choice. Going down 3-0 at home on Tuesday night would be a tremendous hole against a club that came in saying it was a decided underdog and now has a chance for an upset.
“It’s going to be tough tonight and tomorrow, but you just move on,” Lundqvist said. “I’ll take a day to recharge. There’s no other way. Just focus on Game 3.”