LOS ANGELES - The Rangers have been at their best this Stanley Cup season whenever their backs have been against the wall known as Henrik Lundqvist. When they entered Game 5 trailing the Kings 3-1 in the series Friday night at Staples Center, they knew they could count on their goaltender to give them a chance.
Lundqvist came into the game with a 5-0 record, a goals-against average of 1.00 and a .971 save percentage in elimination games this year. Once again, he rose to the occasion, making 48 saves, but it wasn't enough. A three-on-three rush in the second overtime ended with Kings defenseman Alec Martinez netting a rebound for a 3-2 victory and the Cup.
"I knew going into this series it would end in tears -- tears of joy or tears of heartbreak," Lundqvist said. "It's extremely tough to play a game like this. I was hoping for someone to score that big goal for us and take it back to New York. It was exhausting to play, exciting to be out there, but sooner or later, something like that's going to happen."
The Rangers actually took a 2-1 lead into the third period, but for the third time in as many games in Los Angeles, they couldn't hold on to the end. Former Ranger Marian Gaborik poked his stick at a puck lying under Lundqvist to tie the score at 7:56 of the third.
The rest of the way, the Kings came at Lundqvist in waves. They had a 12-3 advantage in shots on goal in the third, but he turned aside one difficult chance after another.
At the other end, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was good when he had to be and lucky once in each overtime period when shots by Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello went off the post.
"As you look at all three games in this building, I think we could have won all three," Lundqvist said. "I think we hit the post in every OT in three games. But they were good."
Lundqvist moaned throughout the series about the Rangers' lack of puck luck, and he had good reason, considering how many goals went past him on impossible deflections. The Rangers weren't as lucky against Quick, with the exception of their Game 4 win.
"You tried not to get frustrated when you saw replays and pucks going through [Quick's] arms," Lundqvist said. "We hit the post twice in OT."
In the end, Lundqvist could do little else but credit the Kings for the aggressive attack they put on him. "It's been a long year, a challenging year but a fun year," he said. "We've got a good team."
Certainly, this Rangers team achieved more than any other in his tenure. Having at long last reached the Cup Final, Lundqvist was hoping to put the crowning achievement on his career and possibly cement his claim as the best goaltender in franchise history. It wasn't to be.
"I said coming into this playoffs I wanted to leave everything out there," Lundqvist said. "I worked so hard for every game in these playoffs. I've never been so tired. I feel like I've done everything I could to try to help the team. It was not enough against this team."