Rangers stay alive: New York hangs to avoid sweep, forces Game Five with Los Angeles
NEW YORK — Henrik Lundqvist was superb on the ice, but got a little help from the hockey gods as the New York Rangers avoided a four-game sweep in the Stanley Cup finals, knocking off the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 at in Game 4 on Wednesday.
The Rangers goaltender recorded 40 saves, but with 1:11 to play and New York clinging to the one-goal lead, the puck got through Lundqvist on a deflection, however, the snow on the Madison Square Garden ice slowed it down and stopped it before it crossed the line.
“Tonight we had the bounces,” said Lundqvist. “You need that extra puck luck against this team.”
Rangers forward Derek Stepan alertly pushed the puck into Lundqvist for the stoppage without closing his hand the puck, which would have given the Kings a penalty shot.
“I’ve been in the game a long time to know that sometimes the hockey gods are there,” said Rangers’ coach Alain Vigneault. “They were there tonight.”
Wingers Martin St. Louis and Benoit Pouliot scored for the Rangers. The Kings lone goal was scored by left winger Dustin Brown.
Lundqvist, who is 8-0 with a .968 save percentage in his past eight elimination games at home, was brilliant in the third period when the Kings outshot New York 15-1 while pressing for the equalizer. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 17 saves in the loss.
“You realize if you make one mistake, the series is over,” said Lundqvist. “We wanted to win at home in front of our fans. The start in these games is important. We didn’t want to see the cup coming out on our home ice.
“Just the thought of it makes me sick.”
Pouliot opened the scoring with his fifth goal of the playoffs off a deflection at waist level at 7:25 of the first period for a 1-0 Rangers lead, just as Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell was leaving the box after serving a high sticking penalty. Rangers defenseman John Moore blasted a rising shot from the right point that Pouliot got a piece of while stationed in the high slot.
The Kings appeared to have tied the score on the power play at 11:50 of the first period, but New York defenseman Anton Stralman managed to get his stick on a loose puck before it crossed the line, tucking it under Lundqvist’s pads after a scramble in front.
“I got a little lucky and I got to the puck before they (Kings) did,” said Stralman. “I didn’t think it was our best game, but we got it done.”
New York went up by two goals for the fifth time in the series when St. Louis poked in a rebound of center Chris Kreider’s snap shot, giving the Rangers a cushion at 6:27 of the second period. The goal was St. Louis’ team-leading eighth goal of the playoffs and the 41st of his postseason career.
“We keep going,” said St. Louis. “We didn’t play a perfect game tonight but we found a way. We backed each other up.”
The Kings outshot the Rangers 27-6 after St. Louis gave New York a 2-0 lead 6:27 into the second period.
“In the last game, we outshot them 2-to-1 and we lost the game,” St. Louis said. “Tonight they outshot us 2-to-1 and they lose the game. It’s about finding ways and tonight we did that.”
The Kings sliced the Rangers lead in half at 8:47 of the second period. New York defenseman Dan Girardi coughed up the puck when he broke his stick just inside his own blueline, and Brown scooped it up. The Kings captain broke in alone on Lundqvist and deked several times before depositing his sixth goal of the playoffs into the net.
Lundqvist’s most impressive save of the first two periods was against Kings center Jeff Carter near the end of the second period. Carter burst past Girardi, who is in the midst of a forgettable series, and crashed in on Lundqvist before cutting across the crease in an attempt to tuck the puck around the goaltender’s pads. But Lundqvist came up big, getting his toe to the far post to make the pad save.
“We had a lot of good opportunities,” said Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter. “But you got to finish. You’re only going to get a handful most nights against the New York Rangers. You got to finish a couple of them.”
The Kings still lead the best-of-seven series 3-1. Game 5 is Friday in Los Angeles.