Put the brooms away: Rangers avoid sweep, force Game 5 in L.A.

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After falling behind 0-3 in the Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers were consistent with their message — all they needed to do was win just one game.

On Wednesday night, they did exactly that.

The Rangers got the better of the Kings for the first time this series, scoring a 2-1 victory in Game 4 to avoid a sweep and send the Stanley Cup Final back to Los Angeles.

It was a huge effort by the Rangers and nobody in blue was more dialed in than Henrik Lundqvist. The New York netminder, who watched Jonathan Quick shut out his teammates on Monday night at MSG, was brilliant throughout the night, stopping 40 of 41 shots — 15 of which came in a busy third period, in which the Rangers were out-shot by a 15-to-1 margin.

Lundqvist wasn’t the only Ranger making big saves, however. Anton Stralman and Derek Stepan both made unreal goal line stops, which included the kind of puck luck that’d eluded New York for most of the opening three games of the series.

Oh yeah, there were also some goals scored tonight.

The Rangers, looking to make amends to the MSG faithful who were bitterly disappointed with Monday’s shutout loss, opened the scoring early in the first period when Benoit Pouliot tipped home John Moore’s point shot just after Willie Mitchell’s high-sticking penalty had expired.

While it wasn’t technically a power-play goal, it did give the Rangers life as they looked dangerous with the man advantage, something that might build momentum for a struggling unit that’s gone just 1-for-17 this series. After Pouliot’s goal, the Rangers made it 2-0 midway through the second period when Martin St. Louis scored his team-leading eighth of the playoffs at the 6:27 mark.

But oh, those two goal leads.

Having blown four of them through the first two games of the series, New York looked in danger of surrendering another one shortly after the St. Louis goal, when Dustin Brown took advantage of Dan Girardi’s broken stick to score a breakaway goal on Lundqvist.

After the Brown goal, L.A. turned up the heat. It carried play for the second half of the middle frame and almost all of the third period but couldn’t beat Lundqvist, who put forth one of the most clutch performances of his storied career.

For the Kings, this loss is a bit of deja vu from the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, when they were unable to close the door on New Jersey in Game 4 and only managed to score once (in a 3-1 loss). While they’re still in command of the series, the Kings will be wary of a Rangers team that now has life and probably telling itself this series should be at least 2-2, given how things went in L.A. over the opening two games.

For the Rangers, well, they finally got bounces, breaks and puck luck. All three had been missing prior to tonight and, in case you were unaware of it, any number of the players and coaches would’ve reminded you.

The Rangers also got Lundqvist’s first real lockdown performance of the Stanley Cup Final, which is perhaps the biggest development of them all.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.