Rangers keep Stanley Cup dreams alive with Game 4 win
Henrik Lundqvist had allowed himself to visualize the Stanley Cup Final being over, and the Kings being presented with the Cup on the Garden ice.
The scene was too much for him to bare.
“We didn’t want to see the Cup coming out on our home ice,” Lundqvist said. “Just the thought of it makes me feel sick.”
That the Rangers awoke Thursday with their season still alive was almost single-handedly due to Lundqvist, who was spectacular in the 2-1 win over the Kings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night at the Garden.
“[Our] goaltender was real good,” head coach Alain Vigneault said with a wry smile.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Lundqvist is the first goaltender in NHL history to make at least 40 saves in an elimination regulation win in the Stanley Cup Final since 1950.
Game 5 is Friday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Kings still lead the best-of-seven series, 3-1. The Rangers have come back once from a 3-1 series deficit in these playoffs, beating the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division finals.
Only one team in NHL history, the 1942 Maple Leafs, have won the Cup after trailing 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final.
“We keep the series alive,” said Martin St. Louis, who scored the Rangers’ second goal. “We’ll travel to L.A. for Game 5 and bring it back here [for a potential Game 6 Monday night]. That’s our goal.”
Benoit Pouliot also scored for the Rangers. Dustin Brown scored the Kings’ lone goal. Jonathan Quick made 17 saves.
“We didn’t capitalize when we had our opportunities,” Drew Doughty said.
Lundqvist had to be superb in the third period. The franchise cornerstone made 15 saves, many from around his net as the Kings attacked in waves.
By comparison, Quick only had to stop Ryan McDonagh’s 83-footer with 7:21 left in regulation.
“I’ve been feeling good in all the games. I’m reacting to the pucks the right way. I’m not making the first move,” Lundqvist said. “I don’t feel like I’ve been giving up bad goals. I think I’m playing my game. I have to believe in what I’m doing out there.”
Ironically, though, the biggest save of the period was made by Derek Stepan, who punched a loose puck under Lundqvist with 1:11 left in regulation.
“I just didn’t want it to go in the net,” Stepan said.
Replays showed that snow in Lundqvist’s crease slowed the puck on the line before Stepan knocked it under his goaltender.
“I knew I couldn’t put my hand on it,” Stepan said. “So I used the side of my glove.”
Stepan’s save was one of two made by Rangers not named Lundqvist. Anton Stralman swept a loose puck off the goal line 11:50 into the game with the Rangers nursing a 1-0 lead following Pouliot’s goal at 7:25.
“All I tried to do basically was get the stick out and, obviously, the puck as well,” Stralman said. “I got a little lucky.”
The lead grew to 2-0 when St. Louis scored 6:27 into the second period. St. Louis and Chris Kreider drove the net as Stepan whipped a shot toward Quick, and St. Louis tucked the rebound into the net before bowling over the Kings’ goaltender.
For the third of four games in the Final, the Rangers had a multiple goal lead on the Western Conference champions. And for the third of four games, the Kings began to relentlessly pressure the Rangers, outshooting them 27-6 after St. Louis’ goal.
“We had some chances,” said Kings center Mike Richards.
The Kings’ only score came as Brown corralled a loose puck in the in the neutral zone, after Dan Girardi’s stick blade broke while he attempted to keep the puck in at the blue line. Brown broke in on Lundqvist, shifting the puck from his forehand to his backhand, before tucking it into the net.
“I’m not going to lie,” Lundqvist said. “The first thought was, ‘Here we go again.’”
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.