It was not a long time ago this series and this Rangers’ season seemed so tenuous.
Wednesday night, Henrik Lundqvist sat with his head in his hands and his pads still on. Friday night, well, that was an entirely different story.
“The last 48 hours have been pretty tough mentally,” he said, dapper in his suit, his hair just right, and his game now back on track.
It was a 5-1 win for Lundqvist and the Rangers at Amalie Arena, the franchise netminder putting up 38 saves and beating back the Lightning in Game 4 and tying the Eastern Conference final at two games apiece.
Believe it or not, Lundqvist got help from Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis, both going from the object of ire to big-time contributors, with Nash scoring twice and having a monster game while St. Louis continued to struggle a bit but got off the postseason schneid with an important power-play goal early in the third period.
Now, what lies ahead is a best-of-three with the Rangers holding home-ice advantage, starting with Game 5 at the Garden on Sunday night. Now, the Blueshirts go into the next game with their best players acting like it, and that absolutely begins with Lundqvist.
“I think there was a lot of talk about him and about his play, but there wasn’t any doubt from within our dressing room,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “Hank has done this so many times before that we knew he was going to come out and do what he always does, which is give us a chance to win. And that’s what he did again tonight.”
In the previous two games, the Lightning had scored six goals in each and made Lundqvist look pedestrian, if not worse. They passed the puck with such precision from side to side and were so creative in getting scoring chances that Lundqvist admitted their style was messing with his.