New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped 40 shots to help the Rangers stay alive in the Stanley Cup finals with a 2-1 triumph over the Los Angeles Kings.
With a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven NHL championship series, the Kings were looking to complete a four-game sweep on the Rangers’ home ice at Madison Square Garden.
But Lundqvist and the Rangers were determined not to be the first club since 1998 to be swept out of the Stanley Cup finals.
“Whatever happens, we’re winning this game,” Sweden’s Lundqvist said of the mindset among the Rangers going into the contest, and it was largely thanks to him that New York made good on the vow.
Martin St. Louis gave New York a 2-0 lead early in the second period and the goal proved decisive for the Rangers, who improved to 11-2 in their last 13 elimination games and 5-0 when facing elimination in this post-season.
Benoit Pouliot put the Rangers ahead with a first-period goal, and New York hung on despite getting only one shot off in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Lundqvist stopped 15 shots in the third period to preserve the Rangers’ lead.
“He had to make some huge saves in the second and the third,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of Lundqvist. “He got, and we got, a few bounces. You need those. Maybe the luck is changing a little bit.
“We’ve got to keep competing hard, keep working. We get another chance to play,” Vigneault said. “We’re going to be ready for it.”
Dustin Brown scored and Jonathan Quick made 17 saves for the Kings, who still own a commanding three-games-to-one lead and can wrap up their second title in three seasons when they host game five on Friday.
“We had a lot of good opportunities,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “But you’ve got to finish. You’re only going to get a handful most nights against the New York Rangers — you’ve got to finish a couple of them.”
The Rangers, seeking their first Stanley Cup crown since 1994, got three lucky bounces on Wednesday.
One of those led to St. Martin’s game-winner. New York’s Derek Stepan was trying to pass to Chris Kreider in the slot when his stick broke and the puck slid off a Los Angeles defender and under Quick.
St. Louis held his position and poked the puck in from the near post at 6:27 of the second for the 2-0 lead.
Less than three minutes later, Brown cut the deficit on a breakaway.
The Kings, who had come back from two-goal deficits to win the first two games of the series, seemed energized, but they couldn’t get past Lundqvist.
Los Angeles dominated the third, notching nine shots before the Rangers managed one.
– Puck luck –
The Kings twice put the puck on the goal line but couldn’t get it across for a score.
One of those near-misses came with 1:11 remaining, when Tanner Pearson’s tip leaked under Lundqvist’s pad and stopped on the goal line.
Stepan swiped the puck back out under Lundqvist, avoiding being penalized for covering the puck with his hands as Kings players moved in.
“Stepan’s a real smart player,” Vigneault said.
The Kings had seen another attempt stop on the goal line in the first period, when a one-timer by defenseman Alec Martinez from the left circle trickled past Lundqvist. The puck slid along the line without crossing it before New York’s Anton Stralman cleared it.
“Tonight, we had the bounces,” Lundqvist said. “Especially against this team, you need that little extra puck luck.”