At risk of falling behind 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, the New York Rangers and head coach Alain Vigneault haven’t considered pulling All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist despite his troubles against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lundqvist gave up six goals for the second straight time in New York’s 6-5 overtime loss in Game 3 that put them in an early 2-1 hole, and dropped his save percentage to .856 and goals against average to 4.33 in the series.
But Vigneault told the New York Daily News he hasn’t considered sitting the 33-year-old Swede, simply stating: “Hank’s the guy.”
“Hank would be the first to say to you six goals against is very uncharacteristic, and in the number of games he’s played for the Rangers he’s been on most nights one of their top players,” Vigneault added. “He’s going to get ready for (Friday) night and he’s going to try to have a real good game.”
The Lightning stand to create some serious separation in Friday night’s Game 4 at Amalie Arena, but this is a Rangers squad that erased a 3-1 hole in the previous round against Washington and did the same last year in the conference semis against Pittsburgh.
The rest of the Rangers squad put Lundqvist’s poor play, surrendering six goals in two straight playoff games for the first time in his career, on themselves.
“We feel we have to be a lot stronger in front of him, for sure,” New York captain and defenseman Ryan McDonagh said to The Daily News.
The loss spoiled New York’s best offensive output of this postseason, with their five goals a playoff high and four different Rangers getting on the board, including second-year right wing Jasper Fast netting two goals and his first since Game 1 against Washington.
Nevertheless, Game 3 was more about Tampa Bay firing on all cylinders rather than Lundqvist struggling and the Rangers losing. The Lightning displayed the breakneck pace synonymous with their attack, outshooting the Rangers for the first time in the series 40-28, and got much more physical with 41 hits to New York’s 33.
Center Tyler Johnson scored his fourth goal of the series and 12 th overall in the postseason, and right wing Nikita Kucherov’s winner in overtime was his seventh, placing the duo in the top three among points leaders in the playoffs.
And Kucherov’s comments to the Tampa Bay Times emphasized the Lightning’s strategy isn’t changed by who their facing in net.
"We're just trying to score as much as we can," Kucherov said. "It doesn't matter who is in the net."
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Online: A live stream is available at NBC Sports Live Extra
Betting Odds: Lightning -1.5, over/under 5 goals
Prediction: Rangers over Lightning, 4-3