It was a new day for Henrik Lundqvist, and the Rangers were looking forward rather than backwards.
New York coach Alain Vigneault was anything but worried about his star goalie Wednesday, just hours after giving him the hook at 8:58 of the second period in the wake of four goals on 18 shots in what turned into a 7-4 loss to the Canadiens in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final at the Bell Centre.
“I just gave him a quick pat after the game, but Henrik doesn’t need to hear anything from me,” Vigneault said at a morning availability in Montreal before returning to New York. “He’s a veteran player. One of the best in his area, and I’m sure he’s going to be focused and ready for the next game.”
Vigneault, whose team rallied from 4-1 down to tie it at 4-4 before Montreal pulled away, discouraged further questions on the issue.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s over with. Move on,” he said when asked if he had ever put a goalie back in after pulling him.
Game 6 goes Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers lead Montreal three games to two.
Lundqvist was not made available on the off-day. But those teammates who did meet the media — all three alternate captains —were equally unconcerned about their goalie.
Forward Brad Richards said he expects Lundqvist to bounce back from the Game 5 letdown.
“I think you guys all see how competitive he is, and that’s not going to sit well,” he said. “Even when he plays good, he’s focused. I would imagine we’re going to see one of his better performances, especially going back to his crowd and wanting to rebound from that. It’s not something we’ll have to worry about. We always know he’ll regroup.”
Added defenceman Marc Staal: “Yeah, he’ll be fine. It’s the last concern of anyone on our team.”
Lundqvist came into Game 5 with a .931 save percentage in the playoffs. That was reduced to .926 Tuesday night.
Lundqvist’s play was prominent in the New York tabloids.
“King Sized Loss,” was the New York Post back-page headline. “Yank Lundqvist,” was the Daily News headline.
Defenceman Dan Girardi said none of the Rangers liked seeing Lundqvist exit early.
“Obviously, you don’t want to see that in any game, let alone a playoff game,” he said. “We didn’t give him too much help, and obviously A.V. (Alain Vigneault) felt that was the right move just to get him out of the game. We didn’t feel great about that, but we couldn’t just sit there and mope around about it.
“We had to do something about it. We did. We came back and tied it.”