"It's a games of inches" is one of the most well-known cliches in all of sports broadcasting, but Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final proved that the saying is far from hyperbole—it was actually a game of millimeters.
The New York Rangers and their fans were thanking their lucky stars for the tiny pile of ice chips in front of the goal in their narrow 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Yes, the Rangers still have some serious work to do in Game 5 if they hope to climb back from a 3-1 series deficit, but for one night they could enjoy a victory on hockey’s biggest stage.
Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times captured just how close the Kings came to tying the game in the final minutes on Wednesday:
Lazerus also described the moment perfectly:
When Alec Martinez’s shot was deflected by Tanner Pearson and through Lundqvist’s legs, the puck gathered snow as it gathered steam. As it slid just under Lundqvist’s right ankle, it started to slow down, the crescent-moon of snow behind the puck waxing inch by agonizing inch, before the puck finally stopped — improbably, amazingly, fatefully — as the snow, but not the puck, just grazed the goal line, where Derek Stepan used the fingertips of his glove to shovel it safely underneath Lundqvist.
If nothing else, forward Rick Nash felt his squad was entitled to this favorable bounce after losing in heartbreaking fashion in the first two games, via Lazerus: “I think we deserved that after our bounces in the first three games.”
The memorable moment overshadowed Henrik Lundqvist’s overall brilliance, as he saved the game and the season—at least temporarily—for the Rangers.
That sets up a Game 5 back in Los Angeles, as the Kings will try to hoist the Cup in front of their home fans. Here is a look at the schedule and broadcast information for that contest.
2014 Stanley Cup Final, Game 5 Schedule
Date: Friday, June 13
Time: 8 p.m. ET
It would be easy to pick the home team in Game 5 simply by pointing out the fact that the Rangers may have gotten a bit lucky in Game 4 and are still trailing 3-1 in the series.
However, it’s not as if New York has been completely manhandled in this series as is typically the case when a team takes a 3-0 lead, especially when that team is the favorite heading into the series. ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that the Rangers have completely dominated the first periods in this series:
Still, a fast start does not guarantee victory. New York found that out the hard way when it lost Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles, even though it never trailed until the Kings actually scored the final goals in the respective overtimes.
The losses are clearly the most important takeaways from those two contests, but it is certainly encouraging from a Rangers’ point of view that they have led for much of this series and more than held their own on the road.
They got off to another fast start in Game 4 but were able to hold on this time around.
Perhaps coach Alain Vigneault’s lineup changes helped, as Brad Richards was demoted to the fourth line, while Dominic Moore partnered Chris Kreider and Martin St. Louis with Carl Hagelin on the first line.
With a fresh rotation and the urgency that comes from facing elimination, the Rangers will find a way to get it done again in Game 5. That doesn’t mean New York is going to do the unthinkable and win the series after trailing 3-0 (the thought here is that the Kings will eventually win the Cup in six), but they will extend the series yet again.
New York has simply been the best team for much of this series despite what the 3-1 deficit may suggest. Look for the Rangers to once again jump out to an early lead and ride it to victory behind Lundqvist’s newly hot hand and their recent momentum.
Rangers 3, Kings 2
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