Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist steals Game 4 vs. Kings
June 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
It was understood by the New York Rangers that if they were going to out-perform the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, they needed goalie Henrik Lundqvist to be the best act in their circus.
They needed him to steal a game, maybe two, to have a reasonable chance to defeat the streaking Kings.
King Henrik earned one of his steals Wednesday when he made 40 saves to down the Kings 2-1 to keep the Rangers’ championship hopes dimly lit as the series shifts back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Friday.
“We believe in him,” said Rangers winger Martin St. Louis. “He’s a big reason why we are here.”
Still trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers probably will need Lundqvist to perform like a Conn Smythe Trophy winner to have a chance to rally in this one. They are trying to become the first team in 72 years to erase a 3-0 series deficit in the Final to win the Cup. The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the last team to successfully follow that path to the championship.
If anyone is capable of that feat, it’s Lundqvist, who has played impressively well when the Rangers have faced elimination this spring.
“I think he elevates his game every single night,” Rangers forward Rick Nash said.
After last game, Lundqvist had said the Rangers needed to find some “puck luck.”
They found it in Game 3. Twice in the game, the puck leaked through Lundqvist and slid to a stop on the goal line, the last time coming with 1:11 left in regulation.
Were the Rangers lucky?
“Absolutely,” said Rangers center Derek Stepan, who swept the puck under Lundqvist after it stopped in a tiny pile of snow.
On the first one, Kings forward Jeff Carter whiffed on a chance to knock it home and Anton Stralman swept the puck out of the crease.
“(Lundqvist) got and we got a few bounces,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “You need those. Maybe the luck is changing a little bit.”
The odds remain against the Rangers: Teams that have taken a 3-0 lead in the Final are 25-1 in league history.
To stay alive, the Rangers stopped the Kings’ nine-game streak of scoring three or more goals. They had been averaging better than four goals per game during that stretch. Lundqvist held them to one goal on a night when his team mustered only 19 shots on goal.
“He’s been our best player throughout the whole playoffs, our most consistent player,” said Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi.
The Rangers had trouble generating offense, but they were gritty around their net.
“I don’t think it was our best game of the series by any means,” Girardi said. ‘They got a lot of traffic, a lot of guys in front. We were doing our best to take bodies away so Hank could see it clear.”
Early in the third period, the goalie calmly out-waited Dustin Brown to stop him on a shot from just in front of his crease. Lundqvist was the prince of poise in this contest. He offered no hint that his team was in the midst of an elimination game. Shots went to his midsection and died instantly. He offered no rebounds. He gave the Kings almost no hope.
It was a strong outing by Lundqvist who had spent three games watching Kings goalie Jonathan Quick playing the role of hero, particularly in last game when he posted a 3-0 shutout
The New York team has some advantage against Los Angeles, particularly in the speed department. Lundqvist was also hotter than Quick coming into the series, although that has changed.
Unquestionably the Rangers understand that they will have to play much stronger in Los Angeles if they want to take the series to a sixth game.
They undoubtedly will need Lundqvist to be better than Quick – and that isn’t an easy assignment.
“Anytime I put Henrik in goal,” Vigneault said, “I know I have a chance to win.”