To be fair, though, No. 30 had about as much support on Wednesday night as Barry Melrose enjoyed during his stay in Tampa Bay, as the New York Rangers dropped a 6-3 decision to the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden.
It was that kind of night for Lundqvist, who entered the contest having allowed two or fewer goals in each of his last 12 appearances. On this night, he didn't even make it through the second period, allowing five goals on 17 shots. Steve Valiquette played admirably in relief, stopping all 15 shots he faced.
"I tried to battle and stay in there," said Lundqvist, whose team had more turnovers in the first two periods than every bakery in the five boroughs. "They took advantage of a couple of mistakes. We really battled back in the game, but it was pretty tough to come back down 5-1 against this team. I am very disappointed that I couldn't stop more shots tonight."
On the flip side, the victory was just what the doctor ordered for Vancouver, which started their four-game road trip with a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Monday and left the Big Apple immediately following this game for Minnesota, where the Canucks will play the Wild on Thursday night. The trip concludes on Saturday afternoon at Pittsburgh.
"It was a busy game," said Vancouver goalie and captain Roberto Luongo
, who made a season-high 39 saves. "We were a little disappointed with the first game (of the trip). We thought we could have played better and maybe got the two points. We rebounded nicely tonight. We've got to make sure we keep going, because tomorrow is a big, big game."
Kyle Wellwood gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead just 4:16 into the game. With the teams at even strength, Wellwood took a pretty feed from defenseman Mathias Ohlund that sent him in on a breakaway, and the big center beat Lundqvist with a backhander for his eighth goal of the season.
"We came out really strong," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "We were able to capitalize on some of our chances."
Alex Burrows put Vancouver up by a pair when he scored shorthanded at 9:38. Burrows cashed in on a Wade Redden turnover, as he also beat Lundqvist on a breakaway to make it 2-0. It was his fifth goal of the season and the seventh shorthanded tally allowed by the Blueshirts. Redden's gaffe led to boos every time he touched the puck for the remainder of the period.
"You have to collect it almost like a shortstop," Rangers coach Tom Renney said regarding the turnover. "But the puck should have been deep in the first place. We didn't get it deep."
The intermission did nothing to slow down the Canucks, who scored twice in the first 2:21 of the second period. Burrows got his second tally of the night at 1:23, and Ryan Johnson followed with his first goal of the season 58 seconds later when Taylor Pyatt sent a passout from behind the net for an easy tap-in.
"We wanted to get on their 'D' and put some pressure on them and create some turnovers," Burrows said. "That's how we're going to create our turnovers. We're happy."
Chris Drury gave the Garden faithful something to cheer about when he got the Rangers on the board at 3:12. With the Blueshirts on a power play, Drury made a nifty move to split the defense and backhanded the puck past Luongo's poke-check bid to make it 4-1. It was his eighth goal of the season. Lundqvist picked up the secondary assist.
The good feelings didn't last long, as Pavol Demitra converted on a two-man advantage at 5:33. Just moments after the Canucks had a goal disallowed, Demitra took a pass from Henrik Sedin
and fired a low slap shot past Lundqvist to make it 5-1. The Rangers' netminder made eye contact with Renney and immediately headed for the bench.
"I looked at Tom right away and made the connection. Sometimes you need a change, a momentum change," Lundqvist said. "We needed a change. I think it was a good call. I know I can play better. It's a long season and I'll bounce back from this."
Renney admitted he thought about pulling Lundqvist sooner.
"I thought about it after the third goal," Renney said. "He was alone himself a couple of times. There was nobody to be seen. He's a great goalie, but he's not a great defenseman. He can't break it out, too. We weren't where we needed to be mentally."
After Valiquette made a couple of outstanding saves to keep things from getting out of hand, Aaron Voros got New York to within three at 8:33. The gritty forward charged the net and batted a loose puck just past Luongo to make it 5-2. It was his seventh goal of the season. The Rangers were outshot 17-13 in the second period and entered the intermission trailing by three.
Ryan Callahan got the Rangers within 5-3 when he scored a power-play goal with 12:15 remaining. With Lawrence Nycholat in the box, Callahan was able to redirect Markus Naslund's feed past Luongo for his sixth goal of the season.
That woke up the Garden, but the Rangers were unable to get any closer, and the Canucks sealed the deal when Daniel Sedin
scored an empty-net goal at 19:57.
In the end, what was supposed to be a offensive struggle featuring two of the League's best goalies turned out to be just the opposite.
"You never know in this game," Luongo said. "Things happen. At the end of the day, it's finding a way to win. Whatever the score is, you want to find a way to get the two points. We did that tonight."
Drury, the Rangers' captain, absolved his goaltender of any blame for the loss.
"Obviously, Hank can't stop them all," Drury said. "As great as he is and as great as he's been, we can't leave him out to dry like that."