Lundqvist can’t save Rangers, who were bested by old pal Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist was exasperated.

The Rangers goalie was sitting there, knowing he was the only reason his Rangers didn’t get run out of the building, knowing on most nights this would have been a lot worse than just a 4-3 shootout loss to the Devils on Tuesday at Prudential Center.

Lundqvist knew above everything else these types of performances will get them buried in the Metropolitan Division faster than, well, a Brian Boyle wrist shot.

“It was tough. It was definitely tough,” said Lundqvist, who was beaten by old friend Boyle on a power-play goal to tie the game at 11:54 of the third period and then again in the fourth round of the skill competition that stood as the game-winner.

“It’s important for me to stay calm, but it’s hard at times when you just give away the puck — a lot,” Lundqvist said. “I’m happy we got a point. We battled at times. But we have to be better in a game like this when it’s an important game, playing a team that’s ahead of us. We need to take a good look in the mirror because I think we have to be better next game.”

This Hudson River rivalry is being reborn this season as the Rangers (19-12-4) continue to look up at the Devils (20-9-5) in a Metropolitan Division race in which 10 points separate first from last. And yet the Blueshirts have maintained the pace despite allowing 40-plus shots for the eighth time since Nov. 15, a staggering amount of work for Lundqvist, the 35-year-old who now has started 30 of the first 35 games.

Damon Severson checks Ryan McDonagh into the boards.Getty Images

“It happens sometimes,” Lundqvist said. “It’s a lot of games here. But at the same time, there is no excuse. We need to be better. We all know that.”

The Rangers turned the puck over with alarming regularity then spent most of the game scrambling to defend. They had given up 15 shots in the first period and another 23 in the second, eventually outshot 48-28 and out-attempted 72-49. Yet the scoreboard was improbable for what was happening on the ice, with the Rangers holding leads of both 2-1 and 3-2, leaving coach Alain Vigneault equally exasperated afterward.

“I think the first two periods, we did everything we could to lose that game,” Vigneault said. “There was one player that wouldn’t let us lose it, and that was Hank. He played unreal.”

Lundqvist finished with 45 saves, and a lot of them were on high-quality chances from in close. Lundqvist couldn’t stop former teammate John Moore when he was left alone in front and gave the Devils a 1-0 lead at 7:22 of the first, but the Rangers managed rebound goals from Jimmy Vesey and Holden to take a 2-1 lead into the second.

After the Devils dominated the second period, they finally tied it when Blake Coleman got a shorthanded goal at 16:24.

“We just didn’t play well,” Vigneault said. “No system in the world can defend the amount of turnovers we had in the first two periods.”

When Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead at 1:48 of the third, banking one in off the leg of New Jersey netminder Cory Schneider, it seemed like the Blueshirts might steal an important victory. But Boyle continued his great story in his first season with the Devils, taking advantage of a careless Chris Kreider elbowing penalty when he netted a nifty backhand from in front to tie it 3-3 and send it to overtime.

Following a wild three-on-three period, the spotlight went back to Boyle, who beat Lundqvist through the legs for the game-winner and an appropriate end to a game the Rangers knew they didn’t deserve to win. Now they just have Saturday’s Garden match against the high-powered Maple Leafs to give them a semblance of good feeling going into the three-day Christmas break.

“We all have to own up to it,” Lundqvist said, “and answer on Saturday.”