The New York Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Los Angeles Kings in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final and, this time, it held up, and the Rangers won 2-1 to avoid a sweep, sending the series back to Los Angeles for Game Five.
The story of Game Three, in some respects, was that the Rangers weren't getting the breaks, but that tide turned in Game Four, as there were at least a couple of pucks that settled on the goal-line behind Rangers G Henrik Lundqvist, but were scooped away before it could cross.
Outshot 41-19, the Rangers got goals from Benoit Pouliot and Martin St. Louis to jump out to the lead. It was Pouliot's second point in the past 11 games, but the Rangers need all hands on deck if they are going to somehow climb back into this series. St. Louis leads the Rangers with eight goals this postseason.
Kings captain Dustin Brown, who has eight points (4 G, 4 A) in the past eight games, was the lone goal-scorer for Los Angeles. He took advantage of Rangers D Dan Girardi's broken stick to skate in a breakaway and beat Lundqvist with a forehand deke.
Once St. Louis scored, with 13:33 left in the second period, the Rangers registered six shots on goal (four at even-strength) over the rest of the game, including one in the third period -- an 83-foot snap shot by D Ryan McDonagh -- while the Kings launched 26 shots on Lundqvist. This kind of defensive (or at least non-offensive) shell leads to a team surrendering two-goal leads, only it didn't happen this time.
After stopping 40 of 41 shots, many of which were high-quality scoring chances, Lundqvist now has a .926 save percentage in the postseason. In the past three years, Lundqvist has a .930 save percentage in the playoffs, ranking third among goaltenders to play at least 20 games. Coming into the series, the Ranges had to hope that Lundqvist was going to provide a goaltending advantage over Jonathan Quick and that hadn't been the case through three games, so getting a big performance from Lundqvist was a start
Kings rookie LW Tanner Pearson registered a game-high eight shots on goal, having never recorded more than four in an NHL game. Pearson also had the best possession numbers in Game Four, with 19 shot attempts for and six against during 5-on-5 play.
The Rangers' defence pairing of Marc Staal and Anton Stralman took their lumps in the possession game, both on for less than 32% of the 5-on-5 shot atempts when they were on the ice.
Rangers C Dominic Moore played 17:47, a total he's surpassed once in the postseason and that was Game Two of this series, a game that went into double overtime. Aside from little-used Derek Dorsett, Moore -- playing primarily with Chris Kreider and Martin St. Louis -- had the best possession numbers among Rangers forwards in Game Four.
Hockey can be a funny game. There have been other games in this series in which the Rangers controlled play and might have been more deserving of a win, but they emerged with the win in Game Four, a game in which they were thoroughly outplayed. This time, they got a few breaks, their goalending came up big and the Blueshirts live to play another game. It's still a long road to climb to overcome a series deficit that now sits at 3-1, with Game Five Friday in Los Angeles. But, pull off an upset in L.A. Friday and maybe this starts to get interesting.
For the Kings, they missed out on their chance to record the first Final sweep since 1998, but they are still in great shape. They hold a 3-1 lead in the series and are going home for Game Five. Teams that hold a 3-1 lead in the NHL Final with Game Five at home have historically won 61.9% of Game Fives (so the Rangers have a chance), but those teams have also won all 21 series under those circumstances, which offers less hope for the Rangers.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.