NEW YORK — Throughout the Stanley Cup Final, the New York Rangers have lamented their puck luck.
More accurately, they’ve lacked the little breaks and bounces that have the capability to change the course of a game.
But Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Blueshirts finally got lucky. Twice, to be exact, as the Los Angeles Kings had two pucks dance on the goal line before coming to rest, keeping New York’s 2-1 lead intact until the final buzzer.
The series returns to L.A., continuing Friday at Staples Center. The Kings, who lead the series 3-1, will now have a chance to clinch the Stanley Cup in front of their home fans in Game 5.
"We had a lot of good opportunities, but you got to finish," said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. "Only going to get a handful most nights against the New York Rangers. You got to finish a couple of them."
The "finish" was just a little short twice.
Midway through the first period with the Kings on the power play, Alec Martinez snapped a shot on net but the puck didn’t fully cross the line before Anton Stralman cleared it out.
Then, late in the third period with the Kings trailing 2-1, Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson were both at the doorstep desperately trying to finish off another Martinez chance to tie. Pearson tipped the puck between goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s legs before he was clobbered by Kevin Klein and the puck came to rest against a chunk of ice right on the goal line.
Derek Stepan then shoved the puck back underneath Lundqvist and out of danger.
"The puck is behind him and obviously you don’t want it to go into the net, so I just pushed it back underneath him," Stepan said. "I knew that I couldn’t put my hand on it so I just used the side of my glove … it was kind of a lucky play."
"We were that close," Pearson said. "If we put those in or tap those in, it’s a whole different hockey game."
A different game indeed – the Kings would have won the hockey game and would be celebrating a Stanley Cup win at this very moment.
"Those are the two reasons why we lost the game: Not scoring those two goals," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. "We have to get hungrier. Those are opportunities that should be in the net. When they are just laying there like that, you just have to dig and dig and put the puck past him."
The Rangers’ two goals were scored on flukey bounces as well. Benoit Pouliot deflected John Moore’s shot from the blue line in for the first, and Martin St. Louis caught an errant crease-clearing attempt by Martinez and sliced it right behind goalie Jonathan Quick to the far post.
Luck is a funny thing.
"I don’t know if they matched our intensity," Doughty said. "They had a couple lucky bounces on their goals. We just didn’t capitalize when we had our opportunities and that’s why we lost."
Luck aside, Lundqvist steps up big for Rangers in Game 4 READ MORE
There were other opportunities, like Marian Gaborik hitting the crossbar in the opening minutes of the third period, as the Kings outshot the Rangers 41-19. But all others were denied by Lundqvist in a 40-save performance.
"We didn’t want to see the Cup coming out on our home ice tonight," Lundqvist said. "Just the thought of it makes me feel sick."
Dustin Brown scored the Kings’ only goal on a beautiful breakaway, finishing with a forehand deke that fooled Lundqvist.
"It is an opportunity lost," Brown said. "We park it and get ready to go again."