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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lundqvist Pulled as Rangers Lose Fourth in a Row


NEWARK — As soon as he plopped on a stool at the end of the Rangers’ bench, done for the night even though it was only the second period, Henrik Lundqvist had a towel draped over his shoulder by an equipment manager. Uncharacteristically, Lundqvist angrily flung it off.

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Lundqvist, a goaltender who needs to continue to play well if the scoring-challenged Rangers want to grind their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs, was not so stout Wednesday, giving up five goals on 17 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Devils at Prudential Center.

“I just felt, you know, it was a tough night,” Lundqvist said. “I don’t think I should analyze it too much. Just move on.”

A victory would have inched the Rangers (29-29-9) within a point of the idle Boston Bruins, who are in eighth place in the sluggish Eastern Conference. But the Rangers lost their fourth game in a row, and the Bruins have two games in hand.

Rangers Coach John Tortorella pulled Lundqvist at 15 minutes 19 seconds after he gave up a goal on a wrist shot by left wing Brian Rolston that dribbled into the net. Right wing Jamie Langenbrunner had tipped a shot past Lundqvist at 13:06, breaking a 3-3 tie.

But Lundqvist did not get much help before he was replaced in a game for the first time since Jan. 23. Langenbrunner was alone in front of Lundqvist. Rolston’s goal followed a Rangers turnover and a four-on-one Devils rush.

“It’s been this way throughout most of the year,” Tortorella said. “It’s been the inconsistency.”

The Devils’ fans in the sellout crowd of 17,625 began taunting Lundqvist after he gave up a rebound goal to Rob Niedermayer 4:16 into the game. But the lead, and the chant, lasted for 57 seconds because Vinny Prospal scored for the Rangers.

The Rangers fell behind again at 18:17 because they could not clear the puck from their zone. A shot by Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador from the right point appeared to deflect off Olli Jokinen’s skate in the slot and scooted past Lundqvist for Salvador’s fourth goal of the season.

“I thought we played with more intensity,” Devils Coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We showed we really wanted to win tonight more than I’ve seen lately.”

Less than four minutes after Brodeur stole a goal from Jokinen by tipping away his shot with the tip of his stick, Erik Christensen tied the score at 2-2 in the second period for the Rangers.

Zach Parise whacked in his 31st goal on a power play to put the Devils ahead, 3-2, but Brandon Prust tied the game again 37 seconds later.

Then the bottom fell out for Lundqvist and the Rangers, who had a measly 19 shots on goal. After Alex Auld entered the game, Lundqvist tilted back his mask, shaking his head. Chris Drury, the Rangers’ captain, smashed his stick on the boards at the end of the second period.

“Seems like that’s how it’s been going since the break,” Drury said.

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