With their Stanley Cup Final hopes dangling by a thread, the New York Rangers rose to the occasion and earned a 2-1 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden.
If the Kings were to lift Lord Stanley's Cup, they'd have to go through Henrik Lundqvist, who, as SportsCenter pointed out, was unbeaten in his last seven postseason elimination games at home:
Henrik Lundqvist has been clutch in must-win games for New York. He has won 7 straight home games facing elimination.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 12, 2014
Lundqvist was also looking to rebound from his subpar performance in Game 3, in which he surrendered three goals on 15 shots.
"I feel like I've been playing my game," Lundqvist said before Game 4, per A.J. Perez of NJ.com. "I have been feeling pretty good, but in the end, giving up three goals it's tough to win."
Although Lundqvist hasn't been at his best in this series, all it takes is one game for "King Henrik" to ascend to his throne as one of the best goaltenders in the league. Wednesday night was the return of the king.
The three-time All-Star made 40 saves in the win, every one of which was vital. The Rangers attempted only 19 shots, with just one coming in the third period. New York leaned heavily on Lundqvist, and he remained steadfast under the heavy burden.
Of course, even the best need a little luck sometimes.
With a little over a minute left in the game, there was a scramble in front of the net. The puck slipped under Lundqvist and looked headed for goal. However, it stopped dead on the goal line, and Derek Stepan quickly slapped it away from danger:
Derek Stepan just saved the game.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) June 12, 2014
Wednesday was simply New York's night.
Benoit Pouliot got the team off to a hot start in the first period, scoring seven minutes and 25 seconds into the game. The winger was in the right place at the right time, redirecting the puck into the back of the net.
Martin St. Louis doubled the Rangers' lead 6:27 into the second period. Stepan's pass to Chris Kreider hit the stick of Alec Martinez. Off the redirection, the puck slid under the pad of Jonathan Quick, leaving St. Louis with an open net for the easy finish.
After an indifferent regular season in New York, St. Louis has found his footing in the playoffs, per NHL Public Relations:
Of course a 2-0 lead sounds good on paper, but that's been a sign of impending doom for New York in this series, per this incredible stat from ESPN Stats and Info:
After taking 2-0 leads in Stanley Cup Finals, the Rangers have been outscored by @LAKings 9-2— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 12, 2014
Dustin Brown had Rangers fans everywhere expecting the worst when he scored at 8:46 to make it a 2-1 game in the second period. He had a great individual effort on the breakaway to beat Lundqvist.
Jeff Carter nearly tied the game with a little over a minute left in the second period. He got in behind the Rangers defense, allowing himself an open shot on the goaltender. Lundqvist was up to the task, though, stopping the shot with his left pad.
As Sporting News' Jesse Spector pointed out, Dan Girardi was a few inches away from being the goat, as he allowed Carter to zoom past along the boards and cut inside for a shot on goal:
No broken stick excuse for Dan Girardi that time. Jeff Carter just made him look completely busted. Lundqvist saves the day for the Rangers.— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) June 12, 2014
The Kings continued peppering the Rangers netminder, but he denied Los Angeles at every opportunity. This was the Lundqvist of old, rather than the Lundqvist of the first three games of this series.
As ESPN tweeted out, he had his eyes firmly focused on the prize:
Henrik Lundqvist has been ABSURD tonight. Here's proof of his laser focus. pic.twitter.com/89qlU08yJZ— ESPN (@espn) June 12, 2014
Game 5 is scheduled for Friday night at 8 p.m. ET at the Staples Center. Los Angeles hasn't been untouchable at home, losing four out of 11 home games so far in this year's playoffs. Still, the Kings will relish having home-ice advantage and a chance to close out the series.
They themselves proved in first round that 3-0 isn't an insurmountable deficit. The Rangers have to take the rest of the series one game at a time, as cliche as that sounds.
When Lundqvist is playing this well, New York is extremely hard to beat.