Standing at a dais in the press room at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault suggested divine forces may have been at work in his team’s desperate 2-1 Game 4 Stanley Cup Final victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
“I’ve been in the game a long time to know that sometimes the hockey gods are there,” Vigneault said, per theScore.com. “They were there tonight.”
Vigneault was probably referencing two instances in which the Kings slotted the puck past Rangers goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist only to have it halt on the line.
One such instance came in the first period when Anton Stralman angled the puck away with his stick, and the other in the closing moments of the contest—the puck nestling and stopping in a small conclave of snow before Derek Stepan swatted it under Lundqvist.
But aside from the dangerously close calls, there were several concrete reasons why the Rangers were able to prevent the Kings from hoisting the NHL's apex trophy on the Garden ice.
High Shots on Quick
Kings goalkeeper Jonathan Quick fares better with lower shots, per Kevin Woodley of NHL.com, and the Rangers made it a point to aim higher in Game 4.
Benoit Pouliot finished past Quick on a deflection from John Moore’s long-range shot in the first period for the first score of the game:
Quick—one of the more renowned keepers in the league and recipient of the William M. Jennings Trophy—shut out and demoralized New York in Game 3. But the Rangers appear to have found his weak spot.
Divine intervention aside, Lundqvist still stopped a staggering 40 shots in Game 4. The Kings pelted Lundqvist with shot after shot in the final period, but ultimately none of the 15 slipped past him.
The Rangers leaned on Lundqvist—the team's unquestioned leader—with their season on the line, and he didn’t falter. That has been a trend for the Sweden native this postseason—he is 5-0 in elimination games while not allowing more than one goal in such contests.
Luck had not been on the Rangers’ side in the first three games of this series. After losing the first two contests in overtime, they dropped an embarrassing 3-0 contest on their home ice in Game 3.
New York was clearly not ready to accept the end of their season in Game 4, and they came out with a distinct sense of desperation. They played physically, aggressively and were not afraid to sacrifice their bodies, leading the Kings in hits (32-27) and blocked shots (20-15).