NEW YORK – The champagne the Los Angeles Kings had ready for a coronation stayed in boxes. The New York Rangers suddenly have some life in the Stanley Cup finals.
Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves and had the Madison Square Garden crowd chanting his name in the Rangers’ 2-1 victory in Game 4 that kept the Los Angeles Kings from a sweep on Wednesday night.
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 Friday night at home.
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Los Angeles forward Anze Kopitar said. “We wanted to close it out tonight and we weren’t able to do it. Now we have a desperate team coming into our building.”
Los Angeles hoped to become the first team since 1998 to complete a sweep in the finals. The Rangers will try to be the second team to erase a 3-0 hole in the finals and go on to win the Cup.
The Kings had that kind of comeback in the first round against San Jose.
“It’s not impossible,” Lundqvist said. “They’ve done it.”
The Kings were in this exact spot in the 2012 finals. They took a 3-0 lead over New Jersey and needed six games to finally knock out the Devils.
Twice Los Angeles put the puck on the goal line, but couldn’t get 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 in the crease after it got behind Lundqvist.
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 seasons. New York is 11-2 in the past 13 games when facing elimination, and Lundqvist was in goal for all of them.
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 the Rangers 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.
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.
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.
This was the 92nd game played in this year’s postseason, tying an NHL record.
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