Not so fast, Los Angeles. The hockey gods aren't done with the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.
Well, that's true if you believe the words of Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, via CBS New York's Sean Hartnett:
#NYR coach Alain Vigneault: "I've been in the game a long time to know that sometimes the hockey gods are there. They were there tonight."— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) June 12, 2014
The Kings were one victory away from hoisting the silver trophy and finishing off a rare Stanley Cup Final sweep against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night. The ineffable magic that has propelled them through three postseason Game 7s and the beginning of the Stanley Cup Final was nowhere to be found in New York, as the Rangers pulled off a nerve-wracking 2-1 victory to send the series back to the West Coast.
Now that the Rangers have avoided the sweep and made things interesting, here is the remaining schedule and television info in case you wrote off the series and need to rearrange your weekend.
|5||Kings||Rangers||June 13||8 p.m.||NBC|
|6*||Rangers||Kings||June 16||8 p.m.||NBC|
|7*||Kings||Rangers||June 18||8 p.m.||NBC|
NHL.com, *if necessary
Game 5 Prediction
Just as the Rangers got out to a relatively comfortable 2-0 lead on goals from Benoit Pouliot and Martin St. Louis in Game 4, ESPN Stats & Info tweeted out this ominous statistic.
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
Right on cue, Kings captain Dustin Brown scored a thrilling breakaway goal to bring the game back to 2-1.
However, there would be no meltdown on the ice for New York in this contest, as Henrik Lundqvist played the game of his life to secure the Rangers victory and keep their faint glimmer of hope alive. Lundqvist made 40 saves as the Kings peppered him with shots all night long.
Lundqvist caught a few lucky breaks with a couple of post saves in the mix, and defenseman Anton Stralman cleared a puck off the line before it crossed into the goal. Those were likely the plays that had Vigneault thanking the aforementioned hockey gods.
The Orange County Register's Eric Stephens had to reach for baseball metaphors to describe Lundqvist's performance.
Lundqvist might be just putting off the inevitable but he's doing it. Stepping up to the plate big time.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) June 12, 2014
The Swedish netminder hasn't been his usual stellar self in this series. In the first three games against the Kings, he posted an abysmal .892 save percentage—well below his .920 mark from the regular season.
Thankfully, Lundqvist is at his best with his back against the wall, and every game is a must-win for the Rangers in this series.
The Kings can't feel too much pressure quite yet, as Game 5 brings them back to the friendly confines of the Staples Center.
How will the 2014 Stanley Cup Final play out?
Their best bet in the event that Lundqvist has completely turned his form around is outpacing the inefficient Rangers offense. The Rangers struggled to maintain pressure on the Kings for the duration of Game 4, putting up just one shot in the third period.
The Kings also won 63 percent of faceoffs in Game 4, as per NHL.com, and held the puck for the majority of the game. The stats tell the story: Lundqvist truly stole this contest from the better team.
Marian Gaborik has remained dangerous throughout this series and put up a couple of late shots that nearly tied the game in the third period. Look for him to continue his brilliant postseason play and break through early in Game 5 as the Kings come out on top and take home the Stanley Cup.
Prediction: Kings win 2-1 in OT