"Hank's got to play better and he knows that. No one has talked to him as far as the coaching staff. He knows. With Hank, and the reason why I'm not talking to him is because he battles. He gets it. For us to have an opportunity, he has to be really good. Early in the series he was really good and that's why we have the opportunity to play a Game 7 because we won some of those early games."
-- John Tortorella
After Sunday's 5-3 loss in Game 6 of this highly entertaining Eastern Conference Quarterfinal at Madison Square Garden, Ovechkin said Lundqvist could not "play like a god in every game."
Monday, at the Rangers' practice facility, those comments were relayed to Lundqvist, who has now been pulled from two straight contests after dominating the first four games of this series. But Lundqvist refused to be rattled by Ovechkin's gamesmanship.
"Nobody's a god, that's for sure," Lundqvist said. "Like I said, the series has been a little bit up and down, but it's a Game 7. It's a great challenge for us to go in there (Washington's Verizon Center) and try to beat them."
This series has been like a rollercoaster ride for Lundqvist. In the first four games, Lundqvist stopped 141 of 149 shots as the Rangers built a surprising 3-1 lead and Lundqvist had clearly obtained superiority in the mind of the Washington shooters.
In the past two games, however, Lundqvist has been pulled after 40 minutes in each, allowing four goals in each game. Now, it appears that the Caps are in Lundqvist's head and Ovechkin is trying to push the advantage through the media, continuing his verbal sniping at Lundqvist during the Caps' off-day skate.
"He won three games and I think it's nuts for him," Ovechkin said Monday. "He can't win every game like that if the team doesn't help him. It's going to be hard for him to stop the puck and have some opportunities and some luck -- and I think he knows that, too. If we're going to play the same way, probably they won't have many chances to win the game."
Lundqvist says he is not worried about Game 7 (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN, RDS) and any hangover from his past two below-par starts. He believes his team can win, despite the bold assertions of No. 8 from the other team.
"We have to believe that going into that building, we can do it," said Lundqvist, who admitted the grind of big game after big game for the past month has weighed heavily on him at times. "They are a good team, but not that good, though. I believe we still have our best game in front of us and hopefully we'll have it (Tuesday)."
Rangers coach John Tortorella also is not worried about his goalie's mental status heading into Tuesday night's do-or-die Game 7. Tortorella is famous for not being the most goalie-friendly coach in the League. But he did not hesitate to back Lundqvist when asked about his play. In fact, the coach hasn't even spoken to Lundqvist about his struggles.
"Hank's got to play better and he knows that," Tortorella said. "No one has talked to him as far as the coaching staff. He knows. With Hank, and the reason why I'm not talking to him is because he battles. He gets it. For us to have an opportunity, he has to be really good. Early in the series he was really good and that's why we have the opportunity to play a Game 7 because we won some of those early games.
"It's been a little bit of a fight for him here, but I don't have to say one word to him. He gets it and that's what I like about him. I know the fight that he has in him."
Tuesday, Lundqvist knows he will have to put the past behind him and summon some extra energy to battle what can be an exhausting attack when the Caps' are firing on all cylinders.
"Going into (Tuesday's) game, if we can pull it off, it will be amazing and worth all the hard work," said Lundqvist.