PITTSBURGH – Henrik Lundqvist is hurt.
The Rangers’ star goalie couldn’t get Thursday night’s officials to understand that despite throwing an epic tantrum to draw their attention. He didn’t convey his “neck spasms” to his coach until the second intermission, when Alain Vigneault immediately pulled him to receive medical treatment.
But the King could not even sit on the bench in the third period or address the media after a 4-1 loss to the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center, and there was no telling how Lundqvist’s second-period collision with teammate Ryan McDonagh could impact him further as the Blueshirts boarded a plane to visit league-leading Washington on Friday night.
“He got hit in the second period by (McDonagh) there when they were driving the net,” Vigneault said of McDonagh’s incidental plow-through while defending Pens forward Patric Hornqvist about six minutes into the second period. “His neck was spasming up, and (trainer Jim Ramsay) thought the best thing was to keep him off and work on him during the third period, which he did. So I don’t think it’s anything serious, but we wanted to be on the safe side, so we took him out.”
Lundqvist (19 saves) lost his cool in an epic fit of rage shortly after the collision, throwing his own net off its moorings for a delay of game penalty at 6:17 of the second. Derek Stepan had “never seen him that angry.”
Nothin’ but net: Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist tries to get the attention of officials by knocking over his own net during a loss to the Penguins Thursday night.
Vigneault said Lundqvist “was trying to tell the referee that he was hurt… (and) obviously the referee didn’t pick up on it,” but the Rangers weren’t aware that Lundqvist was hurt, either. Lundqvist skated to his team’s bench and only vented frustration about the referees’ ignorance. He did not reveal any ailment.
“I didn’t know,” Vigneault said. “Nobody knew. I don’t think Hank made it very clear to the referee at that time either, so we knew when we came in for the second (intermission) that he was having issues with his neck there, but at that time (of the injury) we didn’t.”
Lundqvist had turned in a superstar effort through 37-plus minutes to push his season shutout streak of the Penguins to 97:47 on the back of a 34-save shutout here on Feb. 10. But his night devolved after the injury on three Penguins goals in a span of 99 seconds by Sidney Crosby (17:47), Evgeni Malkin (18:08) and Hornqvist (19:26, power play) – “bang, bang, bang,” as Stepan said.
The Rangers “imploded,” Dan Girardi said, after Chris Kreider opened the scoring at 16:50. Derick Brassard lost the puck and coverage on Malkin’s goal, and Keith Yandle’s interference penalty led to Hornqvist’s tip-in. The Blueshirts badly missed defenseman Marc Staal, the fourth Ranger to contract the flu in two weeks, but they also generated almost no traffic in front of Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (27 saves).
“What was it, only five shots in the third?” Girardi said. “We’re down two goals. We’ve got to find a way to fire pucks from everywhere and get guys in front. We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got the best team in the league coming up.”
Lundqvist’s frustration boils over and he is pulled from the game.
The Rangers (37-21-6, 80 points) presumably will have to start backup Antti Raanta (three saves) against the Capitals Friday night, and then who knows?
Thursday had begun with good news when Rick Nash (left leg bone bruise) skated here for the first time since Feb. 2. It ended, though, with this team’s ace goaltender on the training table, and out of sight.
According to a source in Pittsburgh, Fleury was asked if he would ever knock off his net in frustration like Lundqvist and quipped, “No, that’s baby stuff.”
Lundqvist could get another shot at the Penguins in a March 13 matinee at the Garden.
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