Stanley Cup final: Rangers down Kings to stay alive
Lundqvist spectacular in 40-save performance for New York
Mark Messier got his cameo on the Madison Square Garden video screens early in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final, and used it to hold four fingers in the air to signify the four victories in a row the New York Rangers needed.
Celebrities Michael J. Fox and John McEnroe followed. By the end of Wednesday night that number was three after Henrik Lundqvist willed the Rangers to a 2-1 victory over the Kings to stave off elimination and send the series back to Los Angeles for Game 5.
Lundqvist made 40 saves, including every single one in a third period that included just one shot for the Rangers, who spent more than half the game clinging to a one-goal lead. The entire time "The King" was brilliant, continuing his spectacular play in elimination games at home.
"Elimination games we need [Lundqvist] to be at his best," said Rangers forward Rick Nash.
Going into Game 4, Lundqvist had won seven straight in that situation with a 0.98 goals-against average and .967 save percentage. Stopping 40 of the 41 shots he faced helped him keep the streak alive.
Game 5 is Friday in LosAngeles (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
Benoit Pouliot and Martin St. Louis scored for the Rangers. Captain Dustin Brown was the only Kings player able to beat Lundqvist.
At the other end, Jonathan Quick, who was the biggest reason Los Angeles had a three games to none lead in the series, finished with 17 saves in just his second NHL game at the Garden.
The half-hearted towel waiving conveyed the energy in the building in the moments leading up to puck drop. After the price of tickets on the secondary market plummeted following the Rangers' 3-0 loss in Game 3, there was an air of nervousness on Wednesday night.
Fans would've gotten into it early had Rick Nash connected on a pass to Carl Hagelin five seconds in after a turnover by Drew Doughty. Instead, it missed by inches like so many Rangers chances in the first three games of the series.
A high-sticking penalty on veteran Kings defenceman Willie Mitchell gave the Rangers some solid chances on the power play, but Quick was there with a blocker save and then his right pad on offerings from Brad Richards and St. Louis.
As Mitchell was stepping out of the box after the penalty expired, the Rangers got the kind of fortunate bounce they felt they needed, and then a second. John Moore's shot from the point tipped off L.A. defenceman Jake Muzzin and then off Pouliot's raised stick and past Quick at 7:35 of the first.
Pouliot's fifth of the playoffs got a quick look to see if his stick was above the cross-bar, but it was called a good goal, the Rangers' first since the series shifted to New York.
A couple of hip checks, first by Anton Stralman on Doughty and then Ryan McDonagh on Justin Williams, fired up the crowd. But it was what Stralman did with his stick at the 11:50 mark that was truly memorable.
With the Kings buzzing, defenceman Alec Martinez thought he beat Lundqvist so much that he raised his arms in celebration for a second. But with the puck sitting on the goal-line, Stralman got inside positioning on Jeff Carter and swept it off just in time.
The would-be Martinez goal was close enough to require review, and there was an audible "Ooh" when the replay was shown on video screens. Slow motion confirmed the call on the ice, which was no goal.
Less than a minute into the second, Lundqvist did his part to preserve New York's 1-0 lead by getting a small piece of Marian Gaborik's shot during a 2-on-1 rush.
At the 6:27 mark, St. Louis extended the Rangers' lead. After Chris Kreider crashed the net to create traffic around Quick, St. Louis did the same and batted home the loose puck to make it 2-0.
It was New York's fifth two-goal lead of this Cup final. It lasted only two minutes 19 seconds.
Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi fanned on the puck in the offensive zone and dropped his stick when it looked like the knob broke. Brown got a breakaway and deked Lundqvist before burying a shot inside the right post at 8:47.
For the rest of the period, the Kings pushed. Carter had the next best chance at 18:45 but Lundqvist managed to get his left pad on it at the last moment.
Lundqvist then was at his best as the Rangers didn't manage a third-period shot until the 12:40 mark and the Kings shelled him.
Incredibly, the Kings came centimetres from tying the score with 1:11 left. The puck got behind Lundqvist and ground to a halt in the snow just in front of the goal-line.
Referee Wes McCauley had full view of the puck there from just behind the net and did not blow the play dead until New York centre Derek Stepan gloved the puck under Lundqvist.
"Those are the big plays we need at certain moments," said Stepan.
Nash's offering at the empty net missed, leading to icing and a frantic finish.