Rangers, revitalized Lundqvist host Kings (Jan 23, 2017)
Is Henrik Lundqvist back?
It's a question that's been asked throughout this season, as the perennial Vezina Trophy candidate has struggled for stretches, appeared to turn a corner only to falter again. But as the New York Rangers prepare to host the Los Angeles Kings at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, Lundqvist looks like his old self again.
The Rangers defense in front of him has helped, too.
Lundqvist has allowed two goals over his past two starts and is coming off a shutout of the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday afternoon. He faced just 46 total shots in those two games -- a stark contrast for a team that had allowed at least 30 shots in four of their previous five games -- but you won't hear him complain after he allowed seven goals Tuesday to a Dallas Stars club that had its way against the Rangers.
"For me personally, it's nice to get two games here where, sure I've changed my mindset a little bit and tried to be a little bit better, but I think the biggest change is just the way we play in front of me with the structure and not giving up the big chances right in front of me," Lundqvist said to the Daily News.
"You've got to take a step back sometimes. I know I can be better, and the last two with the help from the guys, I feel like I've been better."
For the Kings, putting the puck into the net has been a bigger problem that keeping it out of their net. They are in the bottom-third of the league in goals per game, which has left them toiling in mediocrity despite having the fifth-best defense without starting goaltender Jonathan Quick for almost the entire season.
The Kings fell behind the New York Islanders early and couldn't bury enough chances to complete a comeback.
"Yeah. I mean, I thought we had a really good start to the game," the Kings' Jeff Carter said to L.A. Kings Insider. "Did a lot of good things except put the puck in the net. That's been an issue for us all year. You know, we get one or two in that first it could be a different game, right? Showed a lot to battle back but we come up with nothing so it's tough.
"I think we did a lot of good things but at the end of the day you've got to win games and last night we lost ground. I don't know what happened tonight but we've got to get these next three games. We're starting to drop back too much so we've got to keep her going."
The Kings are three points out of a playoff spot entering Monday.
"We've got to play desperate hockey right now," Carter said. "We need all the points we can get. We're going to need all hands on deck here and we've got to get rolling. We've got to clean up a few things and start putting up some points."
It won't be easy against the Rangers, who have been an offensive juggernaut all season and now may be getting their all-world goaltender back at an all-world level.
"I think every athlete and hockey player obviously goes through stretches where it's just a lot harder to get it done, especially at this level," Lundqvist said to the Daily News. "All it takes is you lose five, six percent and that's the difference between being OK and being great."