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Rangers goalie Lundqvist will start Game 4

by Corey Long /

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault couldn't help but laugh when asked Thursday if goalie Henrik Lundqvist will start Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Then he was asked a second time.

"Hank's our guy," Vigneault said.

After Lundqvist allowed six goals in each of the past two games, Vigneault had to expect questions about his goalie. Lundqvist had given up more than five goals once in 104 Stanley Cup Playoff games entering this series (six to the New Jersey Devils on April 22, 2006).

Despite back-to-back poor performances, Lundqvist has a .926 save percentage during the playoffs.

"Hank would be the first to say to you that six goals against is very uncharacteristic," Vigneault said. "In the number of games that he's played for the Rangers, he's been on most nights one of the top players. He's going to get ready for tomorrow night and he's going to try to have a real good game."

Games 2 and 3 were played at a pace that appears to favor the Lightning.

Tampa Bay scored three goals on the power play, one shorthanded, and another seven seconds after a man-advantage ended in Game 2. The Lightning's puck possession during 5-on-5 play improved in Game 3 on Wednesday, leading to more scoring opportunities.

Tampa Bay won 6-5 in overtime to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, after winning Game 2 6-2. Game 4 is at Amalie Arena on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Lundqvist's teammates, including captain Ryan McDonagh, accepted their share of the blame for the 12 goals against in the past two games.

"Our huge foundation is our defensive play," McDonagh said, "and not giving up offensive chances against as much … We haven't defended the way that we normally do, and they're very skilled and very creative and they deserve a lot of credit for that. But I think we can still improve and continue to get back to having good numbers back, having good positioning in the defensive zone where we're strong from the net front out, and those aspects are going to help us get back to the way we want to play as a defensive group."

Injured Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello (upper body) skated Thursday, and Vigneault would not rule him out for Game 4.

"There are a number of steps [to Zuccarello's recovery]," Vigneault said. "This is one of them."

Zuccarello has not played since Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, when he was hit in the head by a McDonagh shot.

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