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Henrik Lundqvist: Rangers can't win if I give up six goals

TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is confused.

After allowing 12 goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning the past two games, he can only shake his head in disbelief as to why the opposition continues to score at will.

The Lightning needed overtime, but they were able to beat Lundqvist and the Rangers 6-5 in overtime in Game 3 on Wednesday night at Amalie Arena. Even on the game-winning goal by Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov, Lundqvist had no idea how the wrister from the slot got through a pair of defensemen and beat him.

"For some reason I couldn’t pick it up. It comes at me and looks like its coming toward me and then I’m just late reacting," Lundqvist said. "I don’t know why I didn’t pick it up."

When the New York locker room was opened to the media following the game, Lundqvist sat slouched in his stall, still in his equipment.

"It’s a tough one. It really is," he said. "It’s really challenging for me the way they move the puck. The way they find open ice in the slot, and scoring chances right in front. I just need to dig deep here to try to be more consistent with my game plan. Try to challenge the shooter then they pass and sometimes you stay back. As a team, if we can be a little bit better, but also I have to be better. Honestly, you’re not going to win if I give up six goals."

During New York’s 6-2 loss in Game 2, four of Tampa’s goals were provided by special teams, so no one should really blame Lundqvist for that. But in Game 3 the Tampa offense, especially the high-scoring “Triplets Line,” was buzzing all around. The Lightning proved they’re not scared of Lundqvist, as everything they wanted to do against him in this series was on display in this game.

Tampa limited his vision, created plenty of traffic in front and made him move laterally, taking the netminder out of his comfort zone. Lundqvist is a smart man. He knows he shouldn’t -- and he wouldn’t -- throw his teammates under the bus. He blamed himself for Tampa’s offensive barrage.

The Rangers, however, know they need to be better in front of him.

"It’s a matter of us taking care of our guy in front of him," New York defenseman Dan Girardi said. "Give [Lundqvist] a chance to see the puck. It’s tough, we don’t want to go out and play this way, a track meet game back and forth. They’re fast and we’re fast, but we want to make it a little more tight checking next game."

On the offensive side, the Rangers did score five goals, too, but New York can’t figure out a way to contain the line of Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. That threesome has dominated this postseason, and on Wednesday, Palat had a pair of goals and one assist, and Johnson and Kucherov each had one goal and one assist.

"The way they move the puck. The way they can find openings in the slot. You can give up some scoring chances, but it seems like they can always find that middle and time with the puck," Lundqvist said. "It’s tough when good shooters get time. I just have to be smarter."

It hasn’t been only this series that Lundqvist has had trouble against the Lightning. Tampa beat him 6-3 and 4-3 during the regular season.

"Similar situation when we played them during the regular season, the last two games. The way they move the puck. The way they find openings. They’re really testing our defense and our positioning, and also me, obviously," Lundqvist said.

"I feel like I need to be more consistent with the way I make decisions with my D, and challenging the shooter. But, again, when shooters get more time in the slot, as a goalie, the toughest part is sometimes to be patient. You have to improve and do whatever I can to improve."

Think for a second about the string of goaltenders the Lightning have had success against in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. First, it was the Detroit Red Wings' Petr Mrazek. Then it was the Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price, who is a Hart and Vezina Trophy candidate. Now, it’s Lundqvist.

"I think it’s great," the Lightning’s Anton Stralman said. "We have a lot of hot shooters right now and they’re creating a lot of energy for us. Our whole offensive game is really clicking right now. I think we’re finding open spaces."

It also helps that the Lightning have created a sustained, solid forecheck.

"It’s good to score," Tampa forward Brian Boyle said. "We need it and we’ve done a pretty good job of timely goals. Sometimes you don’t think you need a half-dozen goals to win a game, but tonight we did and we got it from guys that have been doing it for us throughout the playoffs. We’re riding their coattails."

As Lundqvist sat nearly motionless after the loss, he was asked what he needs to do within the next 48 hours to regroup.

"There’s no other way then moving on," he said. "You have to be better. You have to mentally prepare to not get stuck here. You try to learn from it and analyze it then move on."

If this continues, the King and the Rangers will be dethroned. But the Lightning expect Lundqvist to be at his best in Game 4 on Friday.

"He’s going to be better and better," Tampa captain Steven Stamkos said. "I’m sure he’ll be better."