Throughout his NHL career, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist seemed to have the Bruins’ number.
For whatever reason, the veteran was always a stalwart facing Boston, whether home or on the road.
But in Lundqvist’s first playoff series against the Bruins, they have made him look vulnerable.
He surrendered three goals, including one in overtime, in Thursday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and on Sunday afternoon, he gave up five more on 32 shots in the 5-2 defeat that gave Boston a 2-0 lead heading to New York for Games 3 and 4.
It was the most goals Lundqvist had ever given up to Boston, previously never giving up more than three. After the game, coach John Tortorella refused to entertain questions about his netminder, saying in essence that there was nothing to discuss. Lundqvist, who was extremely hard on himself after Game 1 in terms of how he played Brad Marchand’s overtime goal, said the Rangers may as well have gift-wrapped the second game to the Bruins.
“We gave it to them,’’ he said, staring straight ahead. “We gave it to them.’’
When asked what he meant by that, Lundqvist said, “We know.’’
For the most part, though, Lundqvist thought his team played well for stretches, but team defense proved to be its Achilles’ heel.
“I thought we played great,’’ he said. “I don’t think they had to work hard to get a couple of goals there. We just really made it tough on ourselves. We have to correct a few things and go home and turn this around. It doesn’t matter the score, it’s a loss. Overtime or 5-2, it doesn’t matter.’’
The Rangers battled back from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1, but couldn’t get a lead as a multitude of odd-man rushes — particularly in the second period — went by the boards.
“We did play well,’’ said Lundqvist. “We made some mistakes. It didn’t feel like they had to work really hard to get a couple of goals. We just have to talk it through and be a little bit sharper on a few things. A lot of things were great as well.’’
Lundqvist acknowledged his line of sight was compromised at times by the Bruins. What he didn’t say, but certainly could have, was that the Bruins wheeled around the Rangers’ zone virtually unimpeded in the second half of the game.
“This game was about tracking down pucks,’’ said Lundqvist. “It was tough. A lot of late guys coming in, dragging the puck in the slot with guys in front of me. I just have to try to work even harder to find pucks. It was definitely a tough game to play, no question.’’
The Rangers also trailed the Capitals, two games to none, in the first round, but went on to win four of the next five to win the series. Lundqvist said although the Rangers are confident going home, their opponent is different.
“We have to look at it that way, we’ve done it before,’’ he said. “But I think we play a better team now, it’s going to be tougher to do it. They’re a solid team and you can’t give them too much. They work hard and they pay attention to all the details in the game. That’s why they’ve been successful so far in these two games, I think.’’
As much as there were positives to build on, the Rangers’ porous defense needs to be addressed.
“I thought I was in position, but a couple of screens . . . I mean, if you give up five goals, you can’t be satisfied, obviously,’’ said Lundqvist. “You’ve got look at the way they score the goals, too. It’s about teamwork out there. Today, it didn’t really work for us in our own end. So, we just have to talk it through, and I have to be better. Guys in front of me have to step it up in the next game.’’
The Rangers need to improve on the little things in Game 3.
They talked about it before Game 2, but going forward, it is more crucial than ever.
“Playing the Bruins, it’s about paying attention to details in the game,’’ Lundqvist said. “I think they’ve been the better team in that department. They play a solid team game and so do we, but when you lack that a little bit, it’s a tough game. But I’m confident. I’m going to go home and try to play a strong game in the next one.’’
Off his game
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is the reason the Rangers are in the second round, having closedout the Capitals series with two straight shutouts. But he hasn’t been able to carry over that success against the Bruins.
Games 6-7 vs. Capitals: 0 goals allowed, 1.000 sv pct. (62 of 62)
Games 1-2 vs. Bruins: 8 goals allowed, .900 sv pct. (72 of 80)
COMPILED BY SEAN SMITHNancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.