TAMPA -- Prior to the start of the Eastern Conference Final, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers hadn't seen the Tampa Bay Lightning since Dec. 1.
Tampa Bay swept the three-game, regular-season series, outscoring the Rangers 15-7. But that was so long ago, there was little reason to believe it would mean much in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The belief grew stronger when New York opened the series with a 2-1 win at Madison Square Garden last Saturday. Lundqvist made 23 saves in the victory.
Since then, he's allowed 12 goals on 66 shots. With a 6-5 overtime loss in Game 3 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday, he became the first Rangers goalie to allow six goals in back-to-back playoff games since Gump Worsley in 1958, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Trailing the best-of-7 series 2-1, Lundqvist and the Rangers will try to bounce back in Game 4 on Friday in Tampa (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
"Similar situation when we played them during the regular season, the last two games," Lundqvist said. "The way they move the puck, the way they find openings. They're really testing our defense and our positioning, and also me, obviously."
Nikita Kucherov won it for the Lightning at 3:33 of overtime when he moved to his left against Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot from the high slot that the goaltender reacted too late to save.
"I feel like I need to be more consistent with the way I make decisions with my D, and challenging the shooter," Lundqvist said. "But, again, when shooters get more time in the slot, as a goalie, the toughest part is sometimes to be patient. You have to improve and do whatever I can to improve."
Shortly before Kucherov's goal, Lundqvist made a terrific save against J.T. Brown, who came in alone but had his wrist shot denied. Clearly, the Rangers will need to do a better job of limiting Grade-A chances, but they'll also need Lundqvist, whose goals-against average for this year's playoffs has risen to 2.12 following the back-to-back losses, to return to the form that was the biggest reason why New York was able to reach the third round.
"There's no other way [to respond] than moving on," Lundqvist said. "You have to be better. You have to mentally prepare to not get stuck here. You try to learn from it and analyze it, then move on."