Rick Nash was Mr. Popular before Game 4 of the Rangers-Lightning series on Friday, after he organized a Rangers team outing to see the premiere of 'Entourage.'
But after 60 minutes of play, Henrik Lundqvist was the big man in Florida – the Vinny Chase, in Entourage parlance – thanks to his stellar netminding performance against Tampa Bay.
Lundqvist was all-world on Friday, stopping 38 shots, including 18 during a hard Tampa press in the second period to secure the win.
His best stop of the night also came in the second, with Alex Killorn streaking in on a breakaway. Lundqvist gave Killorn nothing to look at and stopped the shot, then froze the rebound.
The only player to beat Lundqvist was Steven Stamkos, who blasted the puck through from the hashmarks on a nifty Tampa passing play in the second.
'King Henrik' was fantastic otherwise, stealing a much-needed win for the Rangers and erasing memories of the dozen goals he gave up in Games 2 and 3.
It’s easy to take Lundqvist’s heroics for granted, but it’s important to remember the typically rock-solid netminder has struggled against the Lightning this year. He went 0-3 against the Bolts in the regular season and posted a wretched 4.74 goals-against average and .823 save percentage through those games. He wasn’t much better early in the series, allowing 13 goals in the first three games.
"Playing this team, it's been tough for us and for me," Lundqvist told Sportsnet's Scott Oake after the game. He added that he thought he was "just OK" in the last two games, and admitted it was a tough 48 hours waiting to get back on the horse in Game 4.
But he was his old self on Friday, and with the series headed back to New York now, he’ll have the perfect environment to get back to his all-world ways.
The spotlight will likely shift to the other end of the ice in Game 5, following a so-so performance by Ben Bishop between the Tampa pipes. Bishop has now allowed 14 goals this series and 10 in his last two games, which should be cause for concern in Lightning land.
Bishop looked particularly out to lunch on the fourth Rangers goal, which came on the power play. Derick Brassard darted in to Bishop’s right, using the defender as a screen before slipping the puck across to Martin St-Louis at the left circle for an easy one-timer. Bishop didn’t even respond to the pass – he was locked in watching Brassard through the screen.
That’s a lapse you might forgive in a six-foot goaltender, but remember, Bishop towers over everyone the ice. He’s 6-foot-7, and should be able to look over just about anybody.
He also failed to hold onto a rebound on the fifth goal of the night.
Bishop flew under the radar while Lundqvist was struggling. But with 'King Henrik' back on his throne, all the pressure shifts to Bishop.