OTTAWA â€” Henrik Lundqvist didn’t care about all the great saves he made Thursday night, he was only concerned about the ones he didn’t.
Lundqvist stopped 41-of-43 shots but the Ottawa Senators defeated the New York Rangers 2-1 in the opening game of its Eastern Conference semifinal as Erik Karlsson scored the winner on a lucky shot.
The Senators captain was below the goal line when he let a shot go that bounced off Lundqvist’s head to give the Senators the lead, and ultimately the victory, at 15:49 of the third period.
“There’s three guys in line with that puck and I pick it up, but it just hit me in the head and it’s in,” said Lundqvist. “I assumed having that many guys right in the line with the puck it would not end up right in front of me, but it did.
“It’s a tough one.”
Lundqvist was the difference in the first period as the Senators outshot the Rangers 21-12. Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone both had exceptional chances and if not for Lundqvist the Rangers would have found themselves trailing early on.
“They have some smart and skilled players so they’re going to find some looks, there’s no question about it, especially on their power play so you try to make good reads, make good decisions and some you anticipate and some is reaction I guess,” said Lundqvist. “But it’s tough to lose it like this when it’s a nothing play.”
While Lundqvist felt responsible for the loss, his teammates know they missed their share of opportunities. New York had a chance to tie the game with a power play with 39 seconds remaining, and Lundqvist on the bench, but was unable to capitalize.
“I think both goalies played really well and carried their teams,” said Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh. “We had a lot of looks, certainly looks we wished we had capitalized on, and they’re going to say the same thing when they look back.
“It’s going to take a goal you don’t see very often to decide it like that. Obviously we wish it didn’t happen, but at the same time I thought we played a hard fought game with them and know it’s going to be some fun hockey as we continue.”
The Senators neutral zone trap caused the Rangers some trouble at times. They know they’ll need to find a way through to have success.
“We’ll look at some things and see what we did well against it and things where we can make some adjustments,” said Marc Staal. “I thought at times we were good against it and other times forcing a little bit. The second period they were hemming us in quite a lot of that period. We did a better job in the third period.”
While the loss was deflating in many ways the Rangers take confidence in the fact their goalie has been unbelievable and realize a lucky bounce is often the difference in the post-season.
“He made some big stops for us and kept it tight and we always know he’s going to be there,” said Staal. “You knew they were going to push in their building in Game 1 and we have to find a way to answer in Game 2. Playoffs come down to a bounce and one shot here or there and Thursday we were on the wrong side of it.”
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press