NEW YORK —
The key to Henrik Lundqvist
’s success is in his toes.
“My balance is more on my toes, and when I have that I react better,” said the New York Rangers
goalie, who stopped all 29 Pittsburgh shots Thursday night in a 3-0 victory for his second career playoff shutout. “A couple of times when I’m screened, I start to sink down and get lower. Tonight I tried to stay high all the time. My timing gets better when I stay high.”
Lundqvist calls playing on his toes being aggressive, which he said is how he has to play to have success.
He was on his heels in the first period of Game 3 as the Penguins scored three goals en route to a 5-3 win despite only getting only 17 shots. In Game 4 he was back on his toes, and as a result, the Rangers are back in the series.
Lundqvist simply was brilliant in stopping everything, including Evgeni Malkin
’s penalty shot with 2:07 to play in the second period and the Rangers holding a 1-0 lead. The Penguins got so frustrated in the end they wound up with 30 penalty minutes in the third period alone.
“He kept them in the game, especially in the beginning, when we had a couple of great scoring chances and didn’t score,” Penguins right wing Marian Hossa
said. “They scored the first goal and they were the better team after that.”
The Penguins scored the first goal in Game 3 Tuesday night, beating Lundqvist just 1:02 into the game. They were not the better team after that as the Rangers wound up outshooting them, 39-17. However, Lundqvist wasn’t even close to being the better goalie as Marc-Andre Fleury
Lundqvist said he didn’t spend too much time thinking about what went wrong.
“A lot of goals you just have to say, ‘OK, they scored because they shot through three or two guys,’ ” Lundqvist said. “Some nights the puck will hit you and some nights it won’t. I talked to Benny (Rangers goalie coach Benoit Allaire) after (Game 3), and he said maybe one goal I could have been more aggressive, but the rest I did what I always do.”
So Lundqvist felt no need to change anything for Game 4 – except he actually did. He played more aggressively, meaning his balance was better, allowing him to find pucks through screens, which he did with superiority.
“I at least told myself to go out there and play more aggressive,” Lundqvist said. “It felt like they got (Game 3) way too easily.”
That Lundqvist rebounded as well as he did is not surprising to the Rangers, but nonetheless satisfying.
“That was huge,” said Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr
. “That was big. Even if it’s not his fault, it’s still five goals they scored, and to come back like that is huge. It’s up to him. We can score some goals, but if he plays like that he’s going to give us a chance.”
“What am I going to say that hasn’t been said before?” asked defenseman Jason Strudwick
. “For us to win he has to be really good, and he was.”
Lundqvist was at his best when Malkin came in on his penalty shot.
Instead of flinching first, as Malkin hoped he would, Lundqvist stayed tall. He closed the gap and moved his glove slightly to thwart Malkin’s quick shot, which came after he deliberately skated in slowly and got very close to Lundqvist.
“I had (Michael) Nylander here for two years and he did that all the time in practice,” Lundqvist said of the former Ranger and current Washington Capitals
center. “He came so close that you had to drop. I just waited, and when he shot it I just moved my glove a little bit. It was an important time in the game.”
Lundqvist kept the game scoreless with a brilliant right-pad save on Hossa, who tried to wrap it around the left post only to have Lundqvist slide across his crease to make the stop roughly 10 minutes into the game.
He made back-to-back big saves early in the second period, and two more on back-to-back shots in the third period, the first on Ryan Whitney
’s point shot and the second a backhanded attempt by Petr Sykora
from the slot off the rebound.
The closest the Penguins came to scoring was when Sykora hit the crossbar with 15 minutes left in the game. The rebound came to Jordan Staal
, who had a wide open net but shot the puck through the crease.
“We had some luck, but you earn the luck,” Lundqvist said. “There were some close calls and they hit the crossbar, but I just went out there and tried to play my game.”
On his toes, of course.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com.