The New Jersey Devils are making changes in hopes to solve New York Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist.
Is Henrik Lundqvist taking residence inside the Devils’ heads?
The New York Rangers’ MVP and Vezina candidate goaltender has made 81 saves on 84 shots in the first three games, including shutout victories in Games 1 and 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
“We just have to do what we were doing all three games,” insisted Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk. “We've got to do the same thing. We don't have to push too hard, because we got to put more pucks on net, create more traffic, same things. They played a good game. We have to make sure we don't let them play the same game tomorrow.
"It's good we got chances. It will be frustrating if we don't have any chances. Then it's a problem. When there's a chance, sometimes you got to take it a little easier and don't think about it and it will go in.”
The Devils sniper had a game-high six shots on goal Saturday afternoon, including two breakaways and one from point-blank range, but was unable to solve Lundqvist. Kovalchuk had an astonished look on his face after the Rangers goalie stopped his in-close shot.
“I thought it was a pretty good shot. Fired in a good spot, but he made a good save,” Kovalchuk said. “I'm pretty sure he's watching the tape. He knows where I shoot most of the time. ... He played a perfect game.
“So tomorrow we just have to play our game, put a lot of pucks on net. Create more traffic. We anticipate a little more. We'll be OK. We'll play exactly the way we want to play, so we don't want to change anything.”
Except for the line combinations.
Devils coach Pete DeBoer replaced Kovalchuk on the top line with Dainius Zubrus. According to reports, Kovalchuk skated as a right wing on a line with rookie center Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias in practice. It also appears that Jacob Josefson will replace Petr Sykora in the lineup.
“We got shut out,” DeBoer said. “We were trying to generate some offense. That's been fairly common practice for us to move people around when we haven't had success scoring goals. I thought we generated a lot of quality chances.
“I think the easy thing would be to stick with it and just hope you come out the next game, do the same thing and score. But we've decided to shuffle some things around, and I think we'll get some results in that.
“That's what that team does to you and that goalie does to you. So you have to work through that and know that he's going to pitch a good game at the other end and not let it get to you. I wouldn't change anything about our game last night, or very few things. If we can play another game like that, I think we're going to win more than we're going to lose.”
GAME 4 OPPORTUNITY
Maybe the third time is the charm for the Rangers.
The Rangers will enter Monday night’s Game 4 with an opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead for the third time in the playoffs. The Rangers lost 3-2 to Ottawa in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and dropped a 3-2 decision to Washington in Game 4 in the Eastern semifinals.
“We want to play with urgency every game,” Rangers center Derek Stepan said. “I think that's where maybe in the first two series we kind of lost it coming into certain games, but we want to try to focus on that and make sure we come out with a lot of intensity.”
Added Brad Richards: “We got to realize where we're at and the opportunity we have to take a 3-1 series lead. I don't know if we'll win, but at least come out with a really good effort, give ourselves the best chance to win.
“We know we can't play, continue to play like we did in the first period or have another first period like that. You're playing with fire. So we'll be focused on getting a good start and giving ourselves a best chance [to win].”
You can follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman