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Lundqvist, Rangers enduring tough road trip

Goalie pulled from latest loss that dropped New York out of playoff picture

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- Henrik Lundqvist kept his word.

It would have been understandable if the dressing room opened and the New York Rangers goaltender was not available for interviews after a short night of work.

Lundqvist was lifted for Ondrej Pavelec at 16:21 of the first period after allowing three goals on seven shots in a 6-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Tuesday. 

But there was Lundqvist in the cramped corner of the visitors' dressing room after the Rangers lost their third game in a row and fifth straight on the road. 

Video: Ducks ride big 1st period to 6-3 win against Rangers

Lundqvist had been short on time following the morning skate and promised a Swedish journalist he would be around for an interview after the game.

Not only did he honor that commitment, Lundqvist made certain he owned it in Swedish and English, pointing the finger at himself after a disheartening team-wide showing. 

The little things, and the big things, are important to Lundqvist at this critical juncture of the season.

"It was just a bad start," he said. "I just didn't have it. I was too slow. Gotta be better.

"I thought we played pretty good. We gave up some chances there but it's my job to stop (them). For whatever reason, I was too slow to react. I've got to be more on my toes. It happens sometimes. There's been a lot of games here but there's no excuse."

Lundqvist allowed a goal by J.T. Brown on the Ducks' first shot at 3:25.  

"It was just a bad read," Lundqvist said. "Looked like he was going high glove and instead he went to the right. Every game you start, you're looking for a good feeling out there and build your game around that. Faced a 2-on-1 or 3-on-2 right away and you're not able to come up with the save, it kind of set the tone."

With the score 1-1, Lundqvist allowed a power-play goal to Corey Perry, who scored on a breakaway. After the Rangers tied the game 2-2 on Rick Nash's second goal of the game, Andrew Cogliano beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot over his glove to end his night. 

Video: NYR@ANA: Cogliano beats Lundqvist off the glove

Rangers forward J.T. Miller had almost as short a night as Lundqvist. The Rangers' third-leading scorer with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 49 games was benched for the second and third periods after his first-period giveaway helped lead to Ducks center Adam Henrique's shorthanded breakaway goal at 18:38, making it 4-2. 

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was terse when asked about the reason behind Miller's benching. "I'd seen enough," he said.

The injury-riddled Rangers (24-20-5), who began the night in position to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, fell two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference. 

Lundqvist, their all-star goalie, has 21 of the Rangers' 24 wins, but his excellence may have masked some of their deficiencies. They are 2-6-0 since Jan. 7.

"Obviously right now we need the points," Lundqvist said. "There no question about it. We have one more game before the (All-Star) break and we just have to do whatever we can to get points." 

There's been little good news for the Rangers since it was announced Friday that defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (torn meniscus) needed left knee surgery and will be out indefinitely.

How the Rangers respond to his absence could shape how management approaches the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26. Should they continue to lose ground, they could turn into sellers at the deadline, especially with forwards Nash and Michael Grabner (21-4-25 in 48 games) set to become unrestricted free agents July 1.

This important four-game road trip has not gone well. The Rangers have been outscored a combined 13-6 in losses at the Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings and Ducks. They allowed three power-play goals in a 4-2 loss to the struggling Kings at Staples Center on Sunday and several mistakes led to their unraveling against the Ducks.

"It's been intense here the last week," Lundqvist said. "You battle through it. You're not going to feel great starting every game. It's just part of playing in this league. You've got to find a way to elevate your game and be on top of it, and tonight I wasn't."

Said Vigneault: "He's been our MVP all year long and I know he's going to bounce back." 

Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello said they had to be smarter. That starts with the final game of the trip against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCA, MSG 2, NHL.TV).

"It's hard to be positive in times like this but nothing is going to help by thinking negative," Zuccarello said. "I think we've got to take a lot from this game. A lot of guys stepped up, a lot of guys played good. But we gave up too many easy goals and you're not going to win hockey games like that."

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