LOS ANGELES For the first time all night, Henrik Lundqvist had no response.
The New York Rangers goalie stood as still as stone, hands down at his sides, his face tilting slightly toward the rafters as if wondering what more he could do.
All night long, he had turned the Los Angeles Kings away, stopping no less than 40 shots on goal. But the last puck, a quick snap from Kings forward Justin Williams, had slipped past him on the stick side.
“It’s a fast game,” Lundqvist said. “It happens.”
That overtime goal did more than give the Kings a 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night. In the blink of an eye, it undid all of Lundqvist’s best efforts over the course of 60-plus minutes.
“It’s disappointing when you lose,” he said. “Especially when it’s that close.”
The 32-year-old Swede carries a lot of weight on his shoulders in this series.
This is a man with an Olympic gold medal and a Vezina Trophy on his resume. Most experts figure that if the Rangers are to upset the widely favored Kings, their elite goalie will have to carry them.
“You just try to get pucks at him,” Kings forward Tyler Toffoli said. “You know he’s going to make big saves.”
Whereas his counterpart — Jonathan Quick — likes to scramble around the crease and come out from the net to challenge shooters, the 6-foot-1, 188-pound Lundqvist is more likely to stay at home.
On Wednesday night, he talked about the importance of limiting opportunities against the Kings.
“They try to create something from the corners and from coming down the wing,” he said. “Making sure to put rebounds in the right place is going to be key.”
For much of the evening, Lundqvist did exactly that. As his team streaked to a 2-0 lead, he deflected shots into the corners and dived on loose pucks.
But he wasn’t perfect. Kyle Clifford beat him on a sharp angle near the end of the first period and Drew Doughty — finding room in the slot — put a wrister past him to tie the game at 2-2 in the second.
“He had so much time,” Lundqvist said of Doughty’s goal. “I felt like I was patient and then I still made the first move.”
If that was a mistake, the goalie responded in the third period. With his team managing only a few offensive chances, he faced continuous pressure and kept 20 shots out of the net to send the game into overtime.
“Doing what he does,” Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein said. “Giving us a chance to win the hockey game.”
The last shot came at 4:36 in overtime, a turnover in the defensive zone leaving Lundqvist only a split-second to react. Not quite long enough.
Standing in front of his locker afterward, he forced a thin smile and talked about the game being “pretty fun ... a lot of action at both ends.”
Letting out a long, deep breath, he added: “It’s just one game.”