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Lundqvist not putting any extra pressure on himself

by Dave Lozo

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist hasn't been at his best in his last two games. Coach John Tortorella fully expects that to change when the Rangers look to fight off elimination for the fourth time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"He'll play his best game [Friday]," Tortorella said.

The Devils hold a 3-2 lead on the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals, with Game 6 set for Friday at Prudential Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). After posting shutouts in two of the first three games of the series, Lundqvist has allowed seven goals on 45 shots in two consecutive losses that have pushed the Rangers to the brink.

Lundqvist has been operating with the slimmest margin for error among any goaltender during the postseason. He is 10-9 during the playoffs, but when he allows at least three goals, he is 0-7. The Rangers' 5-3 loss in Game 5 on Monday marked the first time he allowed more than three goals during the playoffs.

Following practice Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, Lundqvist talked about the notion of putting more pressure on himself to play better in Game 6.


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"Not more than any other game -- or try not to, at least," Lundqvist said. "It's tough when you go into a game like this and you want to win so bad, you might put more pressure than you need. When you're out there you just try to focus on the things you always focus on. The challenge every time you play an important game is to find a good balance mentally. I'm just trying to approach it the same way."

Throughout the regular season, one that is likely to yield Lundqvist his first Vezina Trophy, he was remarkable in terms of staying out of long-term slumps. He lost three straight games only twice -- both times in October -- and he hasn't lost three straight in regulation since February/March of last season.

Lundqvist allowed as many as four goals in a game during the regular season six times. In the five games that followed those performances (he allowed four in the season finale), Lundqvist went 4-0-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and one shutout.

In three games this postseason where the Rangers have faced elimination, Lundqvist is 3-0 with a 1.35 GAA and .948 save percentage.

"I think we just know we have to approach this game the same way we've been approaching each game," Lundqvist said. "We can't put more pressure on ourselves. We always want to win, we always want to play a desperate game, but you don't want to go out there and try to do too much or get too excited. We need to find a good balance and just go out there and try to play as good as we can."

In Game 5, Lundqvist allowed three goals on five shots, but recovered to hold the Rangers in it long enough to get the game tied at 3-3 early in the third period. He wasn't exactly working up a sweat over the rest of the game as he made nine saves on 10 shots, but it was a testament to his mindset of not allowing a poor start or game to affect him in the future.

"I think it's important that whatever happens, you just keep playing your game," Lundqvist said. "You saw what happened the other night. Yeah, we didn't get the first one, but we didn't change too much. We played the way we wanted to play. It gave us good results during the game. It wasn't enough. That's what I mean -- whatever happens early in the game, you just keep playing, good or bad."

With their season on the brink, the Rangers wouldn't want anyone else between the pipes.

"We love having him and we're going to need him to take some big saves here in the next game," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "When he's on his game, it makes everybody else pick up their game. It's great to have that."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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