NEW YORK – They peppered Henrik Lundqvist with 41 shots. They dominated in possession. They were literally inches from tying or winning, only to see the pucks swept away from the goal line at the last moment.
The Los Angeles Kings were the better team in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, but they still lost the game.
The Rangers know the feeling.
“We outshot them 2-1, lost the game. Tonight, they outshot us 2-1 and they lost the game. It's about finding ways and tonight we found a way,” said Rangers winger Marty St. Louis.
“It was probably their best game of the playoffs that they've played against us. They threw everything they had at us. Our goaltender stood tall, gave us a chance,” said Rangers Coach Alain Vigneault after the 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
“He got, and we got, a few bounces. You need those. Maybe the luck is changing a little bit.”
Luck, bounces, karma, Hockey Gods … they all earned mentions in postgame comments by both teams – deservedly so when Game 4 contained two plays in which pucks beat Lundqvist but were swept away on the goal line.
But the Kings didn’t have time for the supernatural after Game 4. They felt they played well enough to win, and were confident they’d do just that headed back to Staples Center for Game 5 on Friday night.
“We would have liked to finish it tonight, but having the next game back home, that’s where we’re comfortable. We’re in front of home fans, at Staples Center, on good ice. We’re looking forward to it,” said defenseman Drew Doughty.
Even if the Rangers have new life?
“You know what, we’ve been in their position before, so we know what they’re going to bring, so that kind of helps us out, to prepare ourselves for that,” said forward Tanner Pearson.
Even if the Rangers are now getting the bounces?
"We're going to bounce back. Everybody's going to be better. We're going to be in front of our home crowd,” said forward Marian Gaborik.
Even if there’s this eerie parallel to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, wherein the Kings won the first two games in overtime and then pitched a shutout in Game 3 and then lost Game 4 with a chance to sweep?
“We’re not thinking about that,” said Doughty. “We’re going back home, where we won it last time, and hopefully we can do the same thing here.”
Even with the strong game they played, the Kings claimed they could do better, especially around Lundqvist.
“We could be harder,” said captain Dustin Brown, who scored their lone goal. “It’s the physicality, probably. I’m not talking about big hits, I’m talking about puck battles in front of the net. Getting in front of Lundqvist more. The physical part of the game is broad.”
Doughty believed that, once again, it was the Kings’ start that undid them. They’ve now been outscored by the Rangers 5-2 in the opening period. “We gave it a lot in the third period, but we slacked in the first. And that’s why we lost,” he said.
Now the Kings return to Staples Center, with a chance to hoist the Cup in front of their home fans.
Or witness the continuing rally of the New York Rangers, who are now 11-2 in their last 13 playoff games in which they’ve faced elimination.
“I don’t think we have any concern. It wasn’t like they had any great opportunities or anything like that,” said Doughty.