Pucks finally bounce (or stop) in NY's favor, but LA still in control
Jun 12, 2014 at 5:45a ET
The avalanche begins with a single snowflake.
Maybe the Rangers can adopt that mantra after finally breaking through against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night in the least likely of the Stanley Cup Final's four games — and in most peculiar fashion.
Benoit Pouliot and Martin St. Louis staked New York to a 2-0 lead in the first period (like in Game 1), and then the Kings unloaded on goalie Henrik Lundqvist (like in Game 1). And like in Game 1, Lundqvist made 40 saves, but in Game 4, with help of inspired teammates and Madison Square Garden's notoriously bad ice, it was enough as New York held on for dear life — and saved its season — despite being outshot by Los Angeles 41-19.
When the goal-saving snow piles had been cleared, New York had a 2-1 win — its first win in a series the Kings still lead 3-1. There have been 26 previous teams to fall behind 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final, and only one — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs against the Detroit Red Wings — came back to win four straight and the Cup.
"We have another chance," New York coach Alain Vigneault told the media after the game. "We get to play."
Friday's game in L.A. will be the 93rd of these playoffs, an NHL record for most playoff games in a single postseason.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Madison Square Garden ice calamity: Just when you think you've seen it all, a mini-snow bank on the goal line prevents the tying goal from being scored. Fortunately for the Rangers, forward Derek Stepan was there when Tanner Pearson's deflection came to rest in a bank of white late in the third period. Stepan swept the puck under goalie Henrik Lundqvist to preserve a 2-1 lead. "Thank God for soft ice now and then," Vigneault quipped.
The Stralman sweep: With the Rangers leading 1-0 in the first period, Kings defenseman Alec Martinez fired a puck that trickled through Lundqvist and came to rest on the goal line (yes, it happened twice). But New York defenseman Anton Stralman swiped at the puck twice to finally get it under Lundqvist and out of harm's way.
The Kings attempted 71 shots in the game: 41 were on goal, 20 were blocked, 10 missed, one found the net.
Los Angeles leads, 3-1.
1. Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York: We'd like to give him all three stars, but hey, the Rangers did score two goals before vanishing. Lundqvist is 8-0 with a .968 save percentage in his past eight elimination games at home.
2. Martin St. Louis, RW, New York: St. Louis had the game-winning goal — his third of the postseason.
3. Tanner Pearson, LW, Los Angeles: He had nothing to show for it, but Pearson threw eight shots at the net, delivered four hits (tied for the team lead) and was around the puck all night.
Derek Stepan and Anton Stralman: Sure, Stepan had an assist, but these guys' best work won't show up on the score sheet — but that is precisely the point. Both Rangers made goal-saving plays by being aware of where the puck was after it had slipped past Lundqvist.
"We didn't want to see the Cup coming out on our home ice. Just the thought of it makes me sick." — Lundqvist
"The question has been asked 20-some times in the playoffs already. There's momentum during games, but I don't think there's much that goes any further than that." — L.A. coach Darryl Sutter when asked if he believes in momentum
WHAT WE LEARNED
Not much we didn't already know. We're still convinced L.A. will win this series on Friday at Staples Center, and maybe the Kings finally learned that they can't spot a team a two-goal lead and expect to rally every time.
L.A. almost did, of course. Once Dustin Brown scored midway through the second period, the Kings outshot the Rangers 26-3, according to NBC Sports Network.
But if you give Lundqvist multiple chances to protect a lead, he's going to protect that lead on more than a few occasions.
At this point, all it appears New York has done is stave off the inevitable. But if New York gets Game 5 in Los Angeles — and that's a Hollywood-sign sized if — then things will get interesting in a San Jose kind of way.
Game 5, Friday at Los Angeles, 8 p.m. ET
Here's a bizarre little stat for you. Los Angeles (2012) is the only one of the past five Stanley Cup champs to win the Cup on home ice. Pittsburgh (2009), Chicago (2010, 2013) and Boston (2011) all won on the road.
Omen -- or one in a dizzying array of meaningless media stats?
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