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Foe's been the rage in the cage

Lundqvist had answer for every Bruins bid

The Bruins’ Brad Marchand is stapled to the boards by the Rangers’ Steve Eminger during the first period. The Bruins’ Brad Marchand is stapled to the boards by the Rangers’ Steve Eminger during the first period. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / February 15, 2012
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First Milan Lucic, then Tyler Seguin, then Dennis Seidenberg. All were hopeful, at various points of last night’s visit by the Rangers, that a puck had gotten past New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

No, no, no. Ultimately, 42 times no.

Lundqvist took on all comers, and impressively turned every one away, giving the Bruins 60 more minutes to stew over and everybody else watching the game a first-hand look at this season’s possible Vezina Trophy winner. Until those in the stands chose to leave, that is, many of them well before the final horn.

With the reigning Vezina holder, Tim Thomas, observing from the opposite end of the ice, Lundqvist added to his personal domination over the Bruins, earning his sixth career shutout in 25 games against Boston. New York’s 3-0 win also increased its lead in the Eastern Conference to 9 points over the second-place Bruins, and left the home club wondering when - or even if - it’ll ever be able to solve the 29-year-old Swede.

“He plays well against us, and we’ve just got to do a better job,’’ Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “There’s some luck involved, but a good goaltender makes his own luck.

“He plays deep in his net, but he’s sharp and very quick. I’ve always said he’s a good goaltender, and just because he doesn’t play for you doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve these compliments.’’

Lundqvist improved to 18-5-2 in his career against the Bruins, and has won his last four starts at TD Garden.

“I just like this building. Nice people, I guess,’’ Lundqvist said. “I like the type of games where both teams are battling a lot in front of the net. I’m a goalie that likes to battle myself, so I kind of feed off the players, and to see my own players work that hard, being physical and paying the price in front of me, I get excited to play.

“Also, knowing that Boston is a team that is not going to give up much, I personally have to be sharp if I want to help the team get 2 points.’’

He was certainly sharp, but that’s not to say the Bruins were without decent scoring chances, especially after the first period, when the Rangers built a 2-0 lead. They peppered Lundqvist with 32 shots over the final 40 minutes, all coming up empty.

Lucic thought he sneaked one through during the second period, when the Bruins carried the play throughout the 20 minutes, outshot the Rangers, 14-5, yet left the ice still in a two-goal hole. Late in the period, Lucic deflected a shot under Lundqvist’s pads, with a large scrum pushing the goaltender across the line. Because his stick was knocked loose, Lucic raised both hands, sure that his redirect had gone in.

Only it hadn’t. Lundqvist got his pads down, and kept them there, trapping the puck. Denied.

Midway through the third period, Seguin thought he had his 21st goal of the season when he sent a rebound toward Lundqvist, with plenty of net visible and the goalie falling down. But Lundqvist gloved the attempt at the last instant, causing Seguin, whose momentum had carried him away from the goal, to snap his head back around, incredulous that his bid had failed.

“We thought we had a goal, but that was a symbol of tonight’s game,’’ Julien said. “We weren’t going to catch a break. He stuck the glove out and made the big save on Seguin.’’

Finally, off a faceoff a few minutes after Seguin was robbed, Seidenberg found the puck on his stick, and rifled a shot that got past Lundqvist, flicked the net, and triggered the red goal light to come on behind the glass.

Finally?

Well, no. An overhead camera replay showed that the puck went just to the left of the pipe and got caught on the outside of the net. The goal was waved off, dousing the Bruins’ best chance.

“I was surprised when they called it a goal, because I saw his pad was covering the short side, so I didn’t really think there was a chance for it to go in,’’ Seidenberg said. “Once they called it off, I kind of expected it.’’

It was that kind of night. It’s been that kind of night for the Bruins against Lundqvist, especially in the Boston barn. They’ll get at least two more shots at him, assuming he starts the remaining regular-season games between the teams, both at Madison Square Garden. Then, perhaps, a playoff series.

So far, Lundqvist has had the upper hand. The Bruins, it seems, bring out the best in him.

“We’re a confident group right now,’’ Lundqvist said. “They kept coming, but we kept calm.’’

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.

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