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No solace for Henrik Lundqvist in OT loss

Makes 54 saves against Canadiens but Rangers miss chance to take command of series

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

MONTREAL -- For several minutes after the final siren Friday night, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist sat silently on his Bell Centre dressing-room bench still wearing his leg pads and skates, holding his bowed head in his hands, his thoughts quite possibly peppered with pucks that still were flying at him.

Lundqvist had just absorbed his first Stanley Cup Playoff loss in Montreal, a 4-3 overtime decision to the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference First Round, and with 54 saves, weathered the busiest night in his 118-game NHL postseason career.

Finally, having shed his pads and stripped the yards of tape off the shin pads beneath them, hurling one ball of it against a wall in frustration, he pulled on a sweatshirt, took a deep breath and looked into the forest of cameras and microphones gathered in front of him.

 

[RELATED: Complete Rangers vs. Canadiens series coverage]

 

"It doesn't matter, we lost the game," Lundqvist said when asked whether he had any idea that 58 pucks had come his way. "The approach when you go to overtime as a goalie, even when you start the game, is that you can't score, so you just have to give the team a chance to win and stay in it and fight for it. 

"(We) just get over this one tonight, recharge and I look forward to playing in front of our own fans. That's exciting. … They're a good team, a fast team. They created a lot, (they have) good goaltending. It hasn't changed. We go home and get ready for Game 3."

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 in New York on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, MSG).

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm2: Lundqvist denies Danault with pad in OT

The 54 saves Lundqvist made on this electrifying night eclipsed the 49 he made on April 20, 2011 against the Washington Capitals in a 4-3 double-overtime loss.

Indeed, the 54 stops are calculated by the Elias Sports Bureau as the most by any Rangers goalie in a playoff game since the NHL expanded from six teams to 12 for the 1967-68 season.

Lundqvist had come into Game 2 with a 3-0 lifetime playoff record at Bell Centre with a 2.01 goals-against average and one shutout in four appearances, having blanked the Canadiens in consecutive playoff matches -- 2-0 in Game 1 on Wednesday and 1-0 in Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final.

Friday was an adventure, to be sure, beginning with Lundqvist playing without a stick when Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry opened the scoring 4:05 into the first period. Goal-crease contact with Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher snapped Lundqvist's stick just above the paddle, and it was discarded behind the Rangers net when Petry banked a shot in off the far post from the faceoff circle.

Lundqvist would lose his stick again in the third period with the Canadiens pouring on the pressure, and after scrambling wildly he finally absorbed a shot with his body to snuff out an attack.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm2: Lundqvist slams the door on Byron

More than once, Lundqvist went wandering, the Canadiens coming close but never able to find the mark. With more than a dozen truly brilliant saves, a rapier-quick right-toe stop on Montreal forward Philip Danault 11:52 into overtime might have been his best.

The most bitter pill, surely, was Tomas Plekanec's tying goal with 18 seconds left in the third period, the Rangers having battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 down to take a 3-2 lead into the third period.

"Of course it stings. It stings a lot, you know?" Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "(Eighteen) seconds away from taking a 2-0 series lead, but that's playoff hockey. Got to learn from it, got to trust the group in here. We're in a good spot, 1-1 going back to our building. That's what our focus is, doing what we've got to do (Saturday) and get ready for Game 3."

"There's no doubt (Lundqvist) played a great game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "He gave us what you want from your goaltender -- a chance to win the game. We're going to take a couple hours to feel sorry for ourselves and get right back at it. That's how playoff hockey is."

The Canadiens had made life more difficult for Lundqvist than they had in Game 1, but the increased traffic and net-front presence did not surprise him.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm2: Lundqvist uses mask, pad for big saves

"At times it's going to be hard to see pucks and you have to fight for your eyes and fight for tracking the puck down, that's part of it," he said. "It didn't surprise me that they kept coming hard, but that's what you have to do. The same for us, you have to get in front and make it tough for (Carey) Price."

Game 4 is at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, with Game 5 back at Bell Centre on Thursday.

"The momentum swing back and forth, that's going to happen in the playoffs and that happened tonight," Lundqvist said. "We had stretches where we played really well (and) they had stretches where they came really hard and made it tough for us. But we expected it to be a tough series."

With Friday's blizzard of pucks and a Canadiens series-tying victory, Lundqvist and the Rangers have got that, and then some.

 

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