WASHINGTON – Henrik Lundqvist peeled off his goalie gear, took a seat and patiently answered all the questions about the New York Rangers’ overtime loss to the Washington Capitals.
As the reporters ventured to another section of the locker room, Lundqvist remained in front of his cubicle, wringing his hands and staring at the floor.
Lundqvist stopped 33 shots Friday night, including nine by Alex Ovechkin. For 69 minutes, the only goal he allowed was a power-play tally. At 9:24 of overtime, however, the 31-year-old goaltender allowed Mike Ribeiro to score from the right of the net to give the Capitals a 2-1 victory and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Game 6 will be on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
By then, Lundqvist hopes to have dismissed from his memory the game-winning goal, which came after Karl Alzner’s shot bounced off Washington’s Troy Brouwer and onto Ribeiro’s stick.
“Hit our guy, went to the other side, game over,” Lundqvist lamented.
Ribeiro hadn’t scored in the post-season since 2008, when he was playing with the Dallas Stars. He had never scored a winning goal in the playoffs.
“It felt great. It’s a while,” he said in the middle of the jubilant Capitals locker room.
Four of the five games in this hotly contested series have been decided by one goal. The home team has won every game so far, with Washington taking the first two and New York pulling even in Games 3 and 4.
If the Rangers can’t continue the trend, their season will be over.
“I just wish we got a better bounce,” Lundqvist said. “Frustrating and disappointing, but it’s not over. We have to regroup. It’s going to be a tough couple of hours and then you forget about it.”
Although he’s been beaten three times in this series, Lundqvist has played well. The same cannot be said for teammate Rick Nash, who had 21 goals and 21 assists in 44 games during the regular season.
In the post-season, he has one assist. Period.
“Anytime you can’t help the team, it’s not the best thing and there’s a little frustration,” Nash said. “I’m a pretty streaky player. Right now I’ve just got to work out of this slump.”
Brian Boyle scored for the Rangers in the first minute, then New York went dry the rest of the way. The Capitals pulled even in the second period when Joel Ward scored a power-play goal after a needless slashing penalty by Boyle.
“It’s a dumb penalty, and you don’t kill those off,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “It just happens that way in our game. That’s a guy that’s playing really well for us, but that’s a dumb penalty.”
After that, the teams traded chances and close calls until Ribeiro ended it.
“It was just a quick play,” Lundqvist said. “Not really much you can do about it.”
Not until Sunday, anyway.
“We have to continue to be positive and believe that we can do it,” Lundqvist said.
“We bounced back from 0-2,” Rangers forward Derek Brassard said. “We’re going to eventually need to win a game on the road to win the series, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
NOTES: Rangers D Marc Staal remained sidelined with an eye injury. He has played in only one game in the series. … With RW Martin Erat out with an upper-body injury, 19-year-old F Tom Wilson, a 2012 first-round draft pick, made his Capitals debut.