The Los Angeles Kings came within inches of scoring the tying goal in the third period, but with Henrik Lundqvist making 15 third period saves, the New York Rangers staved off elimination with a 2-1 victory in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Rangers came out of the gate eager to fight for their playoff lives, and they had some great chances early on. The best one came on a 2-on-1 rush featuring Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin, but Nash’s pass across the ice barely evaded the rushing forward, and the Kings dodged a serious bullet.
After Willie Mitchell nailed Derek Dorsett with a high stick, the Rangers went on the power play and continued to generate chances. Brad Richards fired in a shot from between the dots, but Jonathan Quick made a beautiful kick save. John Moore also had a shot stopped a few moments later, but ultimately the Rangers were able to score just after the power play ended.
Moore once again got the puck near the point following a Kings turnover, and his shot was deflected by Benoit Pouliot in front, and when it just dipped under the crossbar, the Rangers scored their first goal in over 123 minutes of play and grabbed a 1-0 lead in the contest.
The Kings themselves got a power play later in the period, and they came within about two inches of tying things up. Off a shot from in close, the puck bounced off of Henrik Lundqvist and came to rest on the goal line. Jeff Carter whiffed in his opportunity to put it across the line, and Anton Stralman made a tremendous play to clear the puck from danger and keep his team ahead.
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In the period, the Kings outshot the Rangers by an 11-7 margin and won 20 of the 24 face-offs in the frame, but the home side still maintained a 1-0 lead as the horn sounded for the first intermission.
As the second period began, the Kings did a much better job of getting their offense going, with two solid scoring chances in the opening moments. Marian Gaborik blasted a shot off the crossbar on a rush shot, and then Jarret Stoll's opportunity on a 3-on-2 rush was stopped by Lundqvist in the crease to keep his team in front.
Despite that early push, the Kings ended up ceding momentum back to the Rangers with a power play courtesy of Mitchell, and eventually New York scored to take a two goal lead. Chris Kreider's stick broke on a shot attempt close to the net, but Marty St. Louis was there to pick up the loose puck and fire it past Quick to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
The Rangers got another power play shortly after that goal, but it was the Kings who were able to score the all important third goal. When Dan Girardi's stick shattered at the blue line with a few seconds left on the man-advantage, Dustin Brown picked up the puck and outsmarted Lundqvist with a series of quick dekes to score and make it a 2-1 game.
In the final minutes of the second period, the Kings continued to pile up chances, but the Rangers held onto their slim lead. Carter was stopped by Lundqvist on a breakaway chance, and Tanner Pearson was also denied on a breakaway of his own. Justin Williams also had several chances to score, including a shot on a late Kings power play, but Lundqvist made a glove save to end the threat. Finally, Carter got one last chance in the closing seconds of the period, but Lundqvist kicked out his left leg to stop the puck from sliding across the goal line.
Just like the end of the second period, the Kings continued to pound away at the New York defense, ultimately racking up 15 shots on goal in the period. Kopitar got things started with an excellent shot toward the net that was barely blocked down by traffic, and Brown's rebound attempt was stopped by Lundqvist. The goaltender had to make another save a few minutes later when Pearson got yet another scoring chance from in close, but the Rangers continued to lead.
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In the final minutes of the period, the Kings had several more great chances to score, but none came closer than a shot by Pearson. The puck trickled between Lundqvist's legs, but slush in the goal crease prevented it from going in, and eventually Stepan had to grab the puck and shove it under his goaltender to get a whistle to draw a whistle.
The Kings will get a second chance to wrap up the championship on Friday night when the series shifts back to Los Angeles. Puck drop is scheduled for 5pm Pacific time, and the game can be seen on NBC.