The Los Angeles Kings made history before this series even began by going to Game 7 in each of their first three series and winning every time. They developed a reputation for their resiliency, but the New York Rangers arrived to the Stanley Cup Final under similar circumstances.
They played in just one less game than the Kings over the first three series and overcame a 3-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins along the way.
When these two teams finally collided though, it was the Kings’ ability to bounce back that trumped the Rangers’. New York established a 2-0 lead in Game 1 and 2, but in both cases Los Angeles rallied back to win in overtime. With that, the Kings had a 2-0 series edge without leading at any point in the series.
“We can’t take any solace [in two close games] because we lost,” Rangers forward Brian Boyle insisted after the team’s second setback.
“We came here to win games. It doesn’t matter how the hell we do it, we have to win the game. If you don’t win the game you didn’t do what you came to do and that’s the worst feeling there is.”
Game 3 was a different beast as the New York Rangers got power-play opportunity after power-play opportunity, but Jonathan Quick was at his best, stopping 32 shots to lead Los Angeles to a 3-0 victory. The Kings stretch without holding the lead in a playoff game ended at 249:14 minutes, per LA Kings Insider.
With the New York Rangers on the brink of elimination, it was their chance to show what they could do in the face of adversity. New York took a 2-0 lead for the third time in this series and actually managed to hold onto it. They had luck on their side, as on two separate occasions the puck stopped moving just before the Rangers’ goal line, but Lundqvist also had a great game, stopping 40 of 41 shots.
The Rangers set an NHL record by winning their eighth straight home game when facing elimination. Lundqvist had a 0.99 GAA and .968 save percentage in those eight contests, according to NHL.com.
Los Angeles still has a commanding 3-1 lead and more than enough talent to finish off this series, but that doesn’t mean the finals are as good as done either. The Kings have suffered from slow starts against the Rangers and while they’ve managed to overcome that most of the time, it burned them in Game 4 and that might happen again if they allow New York to have any life early in Friday’s contest.
Although the Kings still have three chances to win, this game is important to them. If they can’t finish the Rangers off tonight, then the series will return to Madison Square Garden where the Rangers will attempt to extend their record-breaking streak. If New York is successful, then there will be a Game 7 and all bets are off at that point. In other words, even if Game 5 isn’t the Kings last chance to bury the Rangers, it is their best one.