Henrik Lundqvist was not the issue in Game 3 and if the New York Rangers want to send the Stanley Cup final back to L.A., they’ll need more from the big-name forwards in front of him in Game 4.
NEW YORK, NY – With precious few hours between the team and its most crucial loss of the playoffs, the New York Rangers faced the press this morning. Spirits were not high and coach Alain Vigneault was sympathetic.
“We’re down 3-0,” he said. “We’re all lacking sleep. It’s tough. So excuse us if we’re all not upbeat and cheery.”
But the first-year bench boss did say his squad would come out tomorrow with victory on their minds. After all, what else can they do? The Rangers are one loss away from oblivion and facing a Los Angeles team that looked its strongest in Game 3.
While the Blueshirts search for answers, one place they need not look is in net. Henrik Lundqvist was not the problem last night and while Jonathan Quick was better, it’s hard to win when your team scores zero goals. The fact L.A. scored a couple off deflections gave New York’s star netminder a bit of mental peace.
“When I’m analyzing my game, if I could do it again, I would play the same way,” Lundqvist said. “I feel like I’m in position, I feel like I’m tracking the puck, but it hasn’t been enough.”
Lundqvist said the last-second Jeff Carter goal that opened the scoring at the end of the first period was a “tough pill to swallow,” but that he did like how the team came out for the second frame. Of course, the results still didn’t come and that’s where a player such as Rick Nash comes into play.
Nash has big-stage experience thanks to two gold medals with Canada at the Olympics and internationally, he’s been known to score with a player on his back. But can he put a team on his back? When the big power forward seemingly had an open-net wraparound last night, he was thwarted by Drew Doughty – but it real time it really looked like he should have popped it in.
Similarly, where was Marty St-Louis last night? The diminutive veteran was credited with just one shot on net last night, playing less than 16 minutes overall (he’s average 19 minutes in the post-season). Brad Richards has already been dissected, but you get the picture: New York needs a big Game 4 from the big contract players up front.
“I know my players,” Vigneault said. “The values they have, their competitive nature…They can all come out and say the right things, but what needs to happen is action on the ice.”
As daunting as the 3-0 deficit is for the Rangers, at least they have a template for success. And it’s been laid out for them by none other than the Kings, who staged their own miracle comeback in the first round when they took four in a row, including Game 7 on the road, to beat San Jose.
“Both teams know it’s possible,” Lundqvist said. “They’ve been good, but we’ve been good as well.”
And for New York’s masked man in net, Lundqvist knows that putting the pressure of a Game 4 shutout on himself is silly; New York must puncture Quick’s armor once again and help out their own goalie.
“You don’t think about the end result,” Lundqvist said. “I need to think about the process, stopping the next shot.”
It’s a favorite cliche of all hockey players, but if it gives Lundqvist and the Rangers comfort, one shot at a time, one shift at a time will be the way to go. And they’ll need at least one goal more in Game 4 than they had in Game 3.