Lundqvist lifts Rangers to Game 3 win
Peter DeBoer did not mince words.
“The goalie was the difference,” the coach of the New Jersey Devils said Saturday after his team was robbed by Henrik Lundqvist in the New York Rangers’ 3-0 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Lundqvist, a finalist for the Hart (MVP) and Vezina (best goalie) trophies, was at his best on a day his mates were nowhere to be found for most of the first 40 minutes at The Rock. Lundqvist made 36 saves in a game that saw the Devils take 65 shots compared to the Rangers’ 32.
“Hank gave us a chance in the first,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella. “He does compete. He’s a great competitor as far as his preparation and as far as what he does for this hockey club.”
What Lundqvist did was give his team the opportunity to win a game it had no business winning. New Jersey had a 45-20 advantage in shots after two periods, including two Ilya Kovalchuk breakaways and two odd-man rushes.
“We’ve got to find a way to score a goal,” DeBoer said. “We’re not the first team Lundqvist has done this to. We had quality chances. We had breakaways and two-on-ones. We’ve got to score a goal.”
Lundqvist has shut out New Jersey in two of the first three games of the series. He now has three this playoff season and six in his playoff career. Mike Richter holds the Rangers’ franchise record for playoff shutouts with nine.
“I'm really happy we won — that means so much to me to win every game here, and it's so important to me and to the group,” Lundqvist said. “I felt pretty sharp. I saw some action right away and felt comfortable playing this game.”
New Jersey’s puck-pressure game had the Rangers back on their heels throughout the first period and forced Tortorella to call timeout just 1:51 into the second period. Following a dressing-down, the Rangers began to play.
“It wasn’t our best,” said Callahan, whose empty-net goal with 2:13 left sealed the scoring. “You have to give them credit, they’re a good team. They’re going to have times where they are pressuring us, have time in our zone. Those are the times we have to defend and make sure we keep the puck out.”
While Lundqvist was under siege, Devils goalie Martin Brodeur had a relatively easy first 40 minutes as he had to stop just 14 shots. His toughest save was a diving save on Callahan in the second.
“We’re trying to get pucks on the net,” Tortorella said.
The Rangers broke through 3:19 into the third with Girardi’s power-play wrist shot that beat Brodeur blocker-side. Girardi’s power-play goal was the Rangers’ third in 10 opportunities against the Devils in the series. It also was Girardi’s second game-winner in three games.
“It’s amazing what goals can do,” Rangers forward Brad Richards said.
What it did was energize the Rangers. Kreider tipped a Ryan McDonagh shot past Brodeur 1:57 after Girardi’s goal to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. Callahan’s tap-in of a Brian Boyle cross-crease feed 12:31 later allowed the Rangers to breathe a sigh of relief.
Callahan’s goal was his first since the Rangers’ 2-1 triple overtime win in Game 3 of the Washington series.
“There's a guy that just, it's killing him. He's not helping us a whole bunch offensively. It’s killing him,” Tortorella said of Callahan, who finished with two points, three shots, three hits and a blocked shot.
“But he continues to do those other things. And if he continues to do other things and gets out of his own way a little bit, because I think he cares so much he's in his own way. We're finding a way here to win a few games along the way really without him totally going. I think he's close.
“You never know, you get an open net goal like that, you never know what that does for you. I've seen it before. A guy takes off. That's what we're hoping will happen with him.”
You can follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman