The New York Rangers prevented the Los Angeles Kings from completing the first sweep in a Stanley Cup Final since 1998 by defeating the Kings 2-1 on Wednesday night.
The Rangers had failed to hold a 2-0 lead two previous times in the Final, but last night New York finally hung on for a victory. Unlike the previous pair of opportunities in which they couldn’t protect an early advantage, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was the difference for the Rangers late in the contest. Notching 40 saves, Lundqvist kept the Rangers season alive for at least one more game.
Former Nashville Predators defenseman Kevin Klein played nearly 11 minutes in the contest, New York’s first win in the month of June (their last win was May 29th against the Montreal Canadiens).
Overall game: What’s that? Two-goal leads are supposed to be a good thing?! For the third time, the Rangers rushed out to a fairly sizable advantage and then shifted to prevent defense. The third time was the charm for the club, but just barely. The Kings cut the lead to 2-1 before outshooting the Rangers 15 to one in the final period. Klein–and most of the Rangers defensive corps–were left scrambling in their own end, but Lundqvist was strong as the last line of defense. Before the Stanley Cup Final began, a low-scoring, one-goal game was supposed to be what L.A. wanted, but in actuality it was the recipe the Rangers needed all along. The extension of the hockey season is good for all but Kings fans, so high ratings on this one! Four out of five Kleins.
Entertainment value: From a neutral perspective, game four was more fun to watch than game three (a shutout victory for L.A.). The Kings were pushing like crazy the final 30 minutes of the contest and it seemed like they were going to tie the game multiple times. With the puck bouncing all around the crease and Lundqvist diving to keep it out of the net, last night’s matchup was a thrilling one to take in. Another four out of five Kleins!
Random: Have you figured out how the puck didn’t fully cross the goal line during the sequence with 8:12 left in the first? After Kings defenseman Alec Martinez‘s shot beat Lundqvist through the five hole, Jeff Carter failed three different times to push the puck into the cage. So how does that happened? Puck luck is what we’re being told over and over. The Rangers didn’t have it–now they do. Is that really what analysis of the Final has resorted to? Yes, bounces and other oddities are a part of any sport, but the number of times I’ve recently heard puck luck referenced (and blamed or praised) seems a bit extreme. Whatever the “best” reason, the puck stayed out and Rangers ultimately won 2-1, so there’s that. Only one out of five Kleins for the weak analysis presented by some of the more “prominent” media, however.
Game five is in L.A. Friday night at 7:00 p.m. (CST).
(Special thanks to Gary Lancaster for helping with the graphics)