For a Stanley Cup Final that is on the verge of ending after five games, the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings have put on a brilliant, dramatic series that you can't help but root to see continue.
Even though the Kings lead the series 3-1, they haven't dominated in a way that, say, San Antonio has en route to taking the same lead over Miami in the NBA Finals. Three of the four games have been decided by one goal, including two in overtime.
The Rangers staved off elimination for one night behind a brilliant performance from Henrik Lundqvist in net. He stopped 40 shots in Game 4 to give New York its first victory in a Stanley Cup Final game since 1994.
With the series shifting back to Los Angeles, here is a look at what we expect to see from Game 5 on Friday night.
Game 5 Odds: New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings (37-20)
Game 5 Prediction
For the most part, this series has been a tale of two periods.
Through the first four games, the Rangers have outscored the Kings 5-2 in the first period. When you go to the third period and overtime, that's where the Kings excel. They have picked New York apart to the tune of a 4-0 differential.
No playoff team, regardless of sport, has been better at closing games than the Kings in 2014. ESPN's John Buccigross tweeted how dangerous they had become in the last 20 minutes prior to Game 3:
Goal differential by period, 2014 Playoffs. LA Kings 1st Period -1 2nd Period +1 3rd Period +13— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) June 8, 2014
The great equalizer in hockey is great goaltending, as the Kings can attest to since Jonathan Quick played like a man possessed after falling down 3-0 against San Jose in the first round. He allowed just five goals in the last four games and has yet to look back.
On the other side, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has done everything he can to keep the Rangers alive. He was in front of everything in Game 4—especially late, as sportscaster Rich Marotta noted on Twitter:
I can't believe @LAKings lost that game. Outshot rangers 15-1 in third period. It was chaos in front of Lundquist. He was great though— Rich Marotta (@boxingrich) June 12, 2014
Both teams have caught breaks at different points in the series. The Kings got away with what many—including the Rangers, as reported by the New York Times—believed to be goalie interference during the third period of Game 2, when Dwight King scored a goal to cut New York's two-goal lead in half.
How will the Stanley Cup Finals end?
The Rangers had the luck of chewed ice and some kind of magic on their side in Game 4, as the puck squeaked past Lundqvist in the third period and had a clear path to the goal. It stopped right on the line, just short of being a goal, keeping New York's Cup dreams alive.
All of this is to say that the series, despite being lopsided when you see the Kings up 3-1, has been an inch or two here or there from being a 3-1 lead for New York or tied 2-2.
If you are looking for a separator, the Kings are 5-1 at home in the playoffs dating back to Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against Anaheim.
Hell hath no fury like a dangerous team scorned by the hockey gods for stopping a puck just short of the goal line.
Prediction: Kings 2, Rangers 1
Odds courtesy of OddsShark and accurate as of June 13, 2:30 p.m. ET.
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