NEW YORK — Henrik Lundqvist and some soft ice in front of his net kept theNew York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals.
Lundqvist made 40 saves in the Rangers’ 2-1 victory in Game 4 that kept the Los Angeles Kings from a sweep on the night of June 11.
Twice Los Angeles put the puck on the goal line without getting it all the way across.
The last came with 1:11 left in the game when Rangers forward Derek Stepan pushed the puck out of danger after it got behind Lundqvist.
“It’s probably the product of moving a lot,” Lundqvist said. “I stay deep in the net, so there’s a lot of snow there.”
“I thought I had it because I felt the puck, felt like I got a good piece of it on that deflection. I was yelling at the ref to blow the whistle. Then I realized it was behind me for a couple seconds.”
Benoit Pouliot and Martin St. Louis each scored for the Rangers. Los Angeles leads the series 3-1 and will get its second shot to claim the Cup for the second time in three years June 13 at home.
“We would have liked to finish it tonight, but having the next game back at home, that is where we are comfortable,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We are in front of our fans, we are at the Staples Center, we are on good ice. I’m looking forward to it.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Lundqvist is the first goaltender to record at least 40 saves in an elimination regulation win in the Cup finals since the NHL began recording saves as an official statistic in the 1950s.
“Hank stood on his head,” Stepan said. “He made some big saves in some big times for us. Hank stood tall and he’s a big part of why we are going back to LA.”
Pouliot scored 7:25 into the first period and St. Louis added a goal in the second. New York squandered multiple two-goal advantages in losing the first two games in overtime in Los Angeles. Not this time.
Lundqvist and the Rangers continued their mastery of extending their season.New York is 11-2 in the past 13 games when facing elimination, and Lundqvist was in goal for all of them.
Madison Square Garden had a different feel than the festive atmosphere of Game 3 when the Rangers returned home from Los Angeles. There were no T-shirts draped over the seats, and some of the seats in prime-viewing areas were empty. But as the Rangers started to score, the crowd slowly came alive, roaring in approval.
The Rangers also have won an NHL-record eight consecutive home games when facing elimination, dating to 2008, behind Lundqvist.
“This is do-or-die,” St. Louis said. “Before the game, we were in our game-day routine. We’re a confident bunch. We’ve done great things. We got our first one, and I’m sure that’s going to help our mood.”
The Kings pressed for the tying goal in the third period and outshot the Rangers 15-1 in the frame and 41-19 overall. “I think we sat back a little too much in the third period. But we didn’t blow the lead this time,” Stepan said.
Two nights after Jonathan Quick stopped 32 shots in a 3-0 victory that put the Kings on the brink of another championship, Pouliot got a puck past him.
St. Louis then put in a rebound at the left post 6:27 into the second, giving theRangers their fifth two-goal lead of the series. But just like in Games 1 and 2, a two-goal deficit sparked the Kings.
At the tail end of a Rangers power play, New York defenseman Dan Girardi broke his stick and lost the puck to Kings captain Dustin Brown for a breakaway the other way.
Brown made several moves in front of Lundqvist before tucking a forehand inside the right post to make it 2-1 with 11:13 left in the second.
“He made some good saves, but we didn’t test him,” Brown said of the Rangers goalie. “Enough or make it hard enough on him.”
The Kings had a chance to get even, but the Rangers killed Dominic Moore’s cross-checking penalty late in the period. Jeff Carter then got behind Girardi before being stopped on a breakaway by Lundqvist.
Pouliot broke Quick’s shutout streak at 123 minutes, 1 second. New York hadn’t scored since Derick Brassard’s second-period goal in Game 2. Pouliot’s fifth goal of the playoffs came 2 seconds after Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell finished serving a high-sticking penalty.
John Moore fired a drive from the center of the blue line that Pouliot deflected high with his stick blade into the top right corner behind Quick, who finished with 17 saves.
The Kings almost tied it at 1-1 with 8:11 left in the first period — seconds into a power play — when defenseman Alec Martinez’s shot got behind Lundqvist and slid along the red goal line without crossing it.
Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman cleared the puck as Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik pressured in the crease. Video replay clearly showed that the puck didn’t go over the line.
(SIMMI BUTTAR, AP Sports Writer)