The New York Rangers were banking on starting netminder Henrik Lundqvist being the dominant force in net in their first playoff game of 2016, as the Penguins had to start backup Jeff Zatkoff on their own end of the ice.
Now, though, they’ll have to play without Lundqvist for at least a bit.
The team saw backup Antti Raanta lead the Rangers onto the ice for the second period of their game on Wednesday evening, switching to the backup netminder after starter Lundqvist was hit in the eye with a stick late in the first period. Although Lundqvist stayed in the game for the final few seconds of the period following his injury, a quick goal allowed seems to have prompted the Rangers to switch out their most valuable asset heading into the second 20 minutes of play.
With a .920 save percentage in all situations during the regular season, Lundqvist – who has spent his entire NHL career with the Rangers following a 2000 NHL Entry Draft that saw the Rangers select him in the seventh round – is generally one of the most valuable assets for the Metropolitan Division club. Losing him for any period of time in the postseason, especially against a team like the Penguins, could severely hurt the club in their hopes of seeing a deep playoff run this year.
As the second period gets under way, the Rangers are down 1-0 in their first game against Pittsburgh, which is taking place in Pensylvania.