NEW YORK -- John Tortorella more than earned his fire-breathing reputation during his time with the New York Rangers, and his tough-love coaching style seldomly spared anyone his wrath.
But the jagged-edged coach, who was fired last spring, always seemed wary of criticizing goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Interestingly enough, Tortorella's successor, Alain Vigneault, seems to have no such qualms.
In fact, Vigneault called out the former Vezina Trophy winner when asked about the New Jersey Devils’ second goal in the Rangers' 3-2 loss on Tuesday night. The inquiry wasn’t intended to indict Lundqvist; instead, Vigneault was asked to explain Carl Hagelin's role in letting Devils winger Ryan Carter beat him to the puck before backhanding the bad-angle shot for a 2-1 lead with 46.1 seconds left to play in the second.
Vigneault brought the question back to Lundqvist anyway, making it clear he thought Lundqvist should have stopped the puck.
“I’m not quite sure what happened there,” Vigneault said. “It’s an easy first man on the puck. Mind you, it’s a routine save.”
To be fair to Vigneault, he was right. Lundqvist, who finished with 25 saves, admitted as much and took responsibility for that goal.
Was Vigneault trying to motivate Lundqvist? The steady Swede got off to a rocky start this season but has since been very sharp, save for that goal Tuesday night that Vigneault described as one that “Hank would want back.”
Maybe that was Vigneault simply being blunt after his team lost a pretty winnable game. It’s hard to tell with the dynamics between coach and charges still continuing to keep shape. Either way, it was an interesting nuance to what was otherwise a pretty uneventful postgame media session.
There were some tense moments midway through the third period, when Lundqvist was hit in the arm with a shot and head athletic trainer Jim Ramsay was summoned onto the ice. Lundqvist remained in his crease, though, and showed no ill effects when stuffing Jaromir Jagr's breakaway attempt minutes later.
After the game, he said the shot “hurt a little bit,” but that he was fine. Lundqvist missed two games earlier this season with an unspecified injury.
“We did a lot of good things as a team,” Lundqvist said of the night’s effort. “Jersey played well. They played hard in their own end and they don’t give up that much, but we still created chances. A lot of good things, but we needed to find a way to win and we didn’t.”