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.