NEW YORK – The Stanley Cup was inside Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. But for Rangers fans, it was for all the wrong reasons. The Kings went into Game 4 with a 3-0 lead in the series and looking to become the first team to sweep the Stanley Cup Finals since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings.
Meanwhile, the Rangers were looking to stave off elimination and send the series back to Los Angeles for Game 5.
“Puck Luck”, lucky bounces and movements by the puck, has been a recurring theme all series and, after the Kings benefited from it in Game 3, it was the Rangers who benefited from it in Game 4. Benoit Pouliot broke the scoreless tie at 7:25 of the first period when he deflected a puck out of midair and past Jonathan Quick to put the Rangers ahead 1-0. Pouilot’s goal was the first goal by the Rangers since Derick Brassard scored at the 14:50 mark of the second period of Game 2.
Later in the period, the Kings nearly tied the game at 1 when a shot trickling into the net was swatted out by defenseman Anton Stralman just before the puck crossed the line. It was one of a few plays where the hockey gods were smiling down on the Rangers.
Martin St. Louis capitalized on some more “puck luck” in front of the net and beat Jonathan Quick from point blank at 6:30 of the second period to put the Rangers up 2-0. It was the fourth two goal lead the Rangers have had in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Having previously seen a two goal lead disappear in Game 1 and Game 2, the Rangers sought to not let that happen again. However, the Kings had their own small dose of “puck luck” as Dan Girardi broke his stick attempting a cross-ice pass near the end of a Rangers power play leading to a Dustin Brown breakaway.
Brown capitalized on the breakaway and cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the period.
The story of tonight’s game was Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Jonathan Quick was not bad, but Lundqvist was nearly unbeatable. The Kings threw a flurry of pucks at Lundqvist, outshooting the Rangers 41-19. However, Lundqvist was up for the challenge, stopping 40 of the Kings’ 41 shots.
Lundqvist had some help from Derek Stepan, as well as the Madison Square Garden ice, late in the third period when Mike Richards deflected a shot on goal that trickled towards the goal before being stopped by a tiny pile of snow and swept towards Lundqvist by Stepan. Despite the Kings pleas for a penalty on Stepan, who the Kings felt closed his hand on the puck (which would have resulted in a penalty shot for the Kings), no penalty was called.
The Rangers held on to win the game 2-1 and send the series back to Los Angeles for Game 5. With the win, Henrik Lundqvist improved to 5-0 in elimination games this season and won his eighth consecutive elimination game at Madison Square Garden. The Kings have another chance to win the Stanley Cup, this time on home ice in Game 5 on Friday night at 8 pm.