Jun 12 2014, 4:41am CDT | by Poch de la Rosa
"With inspirational New York City police officer Steven McDonald and legendary former captain Mark Messier in attendance, the Rangers refused to let their season end Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. Instead, led by a heroic performance by Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers beat the Los Angeles Kings, 2-1, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final after having lost the first three games of the series.
"The Stanley Cup, which was in the building, shined up and ready just in case the Kings could seal the deal Wednesday, will be put back in its case and shipped to Los Angeles where Game 5 will be hosted by the Kings at the Staples Center on Friday night.
"'We didn't want to see the Cup come out on our ice tonight,' stated Lundqvist, who stopped 39 of 40 shots Wednesday. 'Just the thought of that makes me sick.'
"Though outshot by a wide margin the Rangers never trailed in Game 4, due in large part to the play of Lundqvist, who has now won eight straight playoff elimination games at the Garden. In those eight contests he has a goals-against average of 0.98 and a save percentage of .968.
"The Rangers as a team have now won 11 of their last 13 playof elimination games dating back to Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in Ottawa. Lundqvist, of course, has been their goaltender in each and every one of those games, including all five in this year's postseason run.
"'It's about competing when everything is on the line and challenging yourself the right way, I guess,' explained Lundqvist. 'As a team, and personally, you have to go out there and leave everything out there, and be extremely focused.
"'One mistake and the season could be over. It's exciting...it's tough out there...but it's fun.'"
The New York Times' Jeff Z. Klein wrote a game recap on June 11, noting Benoit Pouliot's first-period goal broke a a scoreless span of 123:01 dating back to Game 2. The Rangers were shut out by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick 3-0 in Game 3:
"The Rangers emboldened their supporters when Pouliot tipped a shot past Jonathan Quick seven minutes (and) 25 seconds into the first period. The goal was the Rangers' first against Quick since the first period of Game 2 -- a span of 123:01.
"Stralman saved a seemingly sure Kings goal four minutes later, with Los Angeles on the power play. Defenseman Alec Martinez fired a shot that squeezed through Lundvist's pads and came to rest in a small pile of snow on the goal line.
"Jeff Carter tried to knock the puck two more inches into the net, but his stick was impeded by Lundqvist's body. Stralman suddenly arrived to sweep it off the line and preserve the lead.
"'Thank God for soft ice now and then,' Vigneault said.
"The Rangers made the score 2-0 at 6:27 of the second period, when a series of players converged on Quick at the goal mouth at the same time the puck arrived and St. Louis poked it in.
"That created a two-goal lead, something the Rangers lost a total of four times in the first two games, both defeats -- in overtime and double overtime -- in Los Angeles.
"And -- no surprise -- the Kings came to life. As a Rangers power play was expiring, the puck was sent back to the Kings' blue line, where Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was waiting. But the handle of Girardi's stick broke.
"Dustin Brown swooped in and sped off with the puck on a breakaway. He froze Lundqvist and slotted the puck home to halve the deficit at 8:46.
"The Kings now had the better of the Rangers. Tanner Pearson and Carter rounded Rangers defensemen with regularity, and the Kings rolled up a 31-18 face-off advantage.
"In the second and third periods, the Kings outshot the Rangers, 30-11. But Lundqvist was stalwart, as he has so often been when the Rangers were facing dire straits.
"Still, with 1:11 left, the puck got past Lundqvist again and lay on the Rangers' goal line. This time, Stepan swatted the puck off the line, using his glove as several Kings burrowed to get at it. The Rangers were close to being called for a penalty shot, but Stepand did not cover the puck with his hand, and that made his play legal."
Game 5 will be on June 13 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. with an 8:00 p.m. PST face-off.
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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