Henrik Lundqvist was pulled in back-to-back playoff games.
That’s pretty much all you’d need to know about how the New York Rangers fared against the Pittsburgh Penguins in their divisional semifinal playoff series.
Pittsburgh won Game 5 at home, 6-3, eliminating the Rangers in a blowout. Lundqvist gave up six goals on 22 shots before being supplanted by Antti Raanta in the third period, as the Rangers raised the white flag on their season.
Lundqvist gave up four goals on 18 shots in the Rangers’ Game 4 loss before getting pulled. It was just the fifth time in 102 playoff appearances that Lundqvist had been pulled by the Rangers.
“I need to be better, simple as that. I don’t need to say more than that. It’s disappointing, there’s no question,” he said after Game 4. “Obviously it’s my job to be there when we have breakdowns but I was not good enough today.”
And he wasn’t good enough in Game 5, either.
Here's his playoff stat line:
Thus ends an extraordinarily frustrating season for Lundqvist and the Rangers, as the all-world goalie was pulled 11 times in total this season. It used to be the definitive image of Lundqvist vs. the Penguins this season was going to be his flipping the net off its moorings in disgust when the referees ignored his injury after a collision – a move that Marc-Andre Fleury termed “baby stuff.” Now, the definitive image is Lundqvist seething on the bench after getting yanked.
But it wasn’t Fleury that outplayed him this series. Fleury hasn’t played, due to a concussion. With the series tied 1-1, rookie goalie Matt Murray took over the crease and was outstanding: Stopping 16 of 17 shots in a Game 3 win that the Penguins locked down defensively; a 31-save shutout in Game 4; and a 38-save effort in Game 5, where admittedly he received a lot of goal support.
Bryan Rust had two goals and an assist on Matt Cullen’s second of the series. Conor Sheary scored his second of the postseason during the Pens’ four-goal explosion in the second period. Phil Kessel, meanwhile, assisted on Carl Hagelin’s first-period goal and scored his third of the playoffs later.
The Rangers’ key offensive players limped to the finish. Mats Zuccarello went scoreless in three straight games. Derek Stepan went scoreless in four straight. Eric Staal, the Rangers’ big deadline acquisition, had a pathetic postseason: no points and a minus-7. He should beg Carolina to take him back as a free agent.
So the Penguins move on, continuing to play outstanding hockey under coach Mike Sullivan and now have a rookie goalie writing a Ken Dryden tale. (Or maybe Cam Ward.) Whether it’s the Capitals or the Flyers, a buzzsaw awaits.
For the Rangers, one wonders if the window for this group has slammed shut. They have $55 million in payroll committed already for next season, for just 26 contracts. Dan Girardi’s contract is an albatross. They have to figure out what to pay Keith Yandle. And, suddenly, they might have to wonder if Henrik Lundqvist’s miles are starting to finally catch up with him.
Lundqvist said after the game that the Penguins were the better team with the better goaltending. And that’s nothing you want to hear from Henrik Lundqvist.
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