Rangers stave off elimination with Game 4 winLundqvist stops 40 shots as New York holds on to top Los Angeles, 2-1
But tantalizing is the sport that allows two pucks to stop right on the goal line, only to get swept away by a frantic defense.
Tantalizing is the sport that allows a team to outshoot its opponent 41-19 -- including 15-1 in the third period, only to fall in defeat.
Tantalizing is the sport that allows a team to play its worst game of the series, only to get its first win.
The Rangers survived on Wednesday, in a chaotic 2-1 win over the Kings, keeping alive their hopes for the Stanley Cup and sending the series back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Friday.
Midway through the first period, with the Rangers already in front on a Benoit Pouliot goal, Alec Martinez drove one toward Henrik Lundqvist, who finished the game with 40 saves. It leaked through the goaltender, crawling towards the net. Half the puck crossed the line as Kings forward Jeff Carter swung his stick towards it. He missed, allowing Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman to stick it back under his netminder.
"It was a quick play on the power play there," Stralman said. "I just saw the puck and all I tried to do basically was get the stick out, and obviously the puck as well. I got a little lucky and was able to save it."
Luck is all part of it. And over a seven-game series, it always seems to even out. The Rangers complained about bad luck after losses in the first three games. Now? They're singing Lady Luck's praises.
"Tonight, we had the bounces," Lundqvist said. "We talked about it the first couple games where, you know, especially against this team, you need that little extra puck luck."
"I've been in the game a long time to know that sometimes the hockey gods are there," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "They were there tonight."
Inside the final 80 seconds of the third period, Tanner Pearson deflected the puck toward Lundqvist. He appeared to make the initial save, before the puck squirted between his legs, stopping in a snowpile right on the goal line. It sat there for around three seconds before Derek Stepan used his left hand to swipe it away from danger, preserving New York's season-saving win.
"I knew it wasn't in because the light wasn't going on," Vigneault said. "I didn't know exactly where it was. I was able to see the replay after. Thank God for soft ice now and then."
"We were that close," Pearson said. "If we just put those in -- or tap those in - it's a whole different hockey game. We're trying to close out the series. We knew they were going to come with a big push. They got the first one, and we bounced back. We just couldn't get that second one."
"We had a lot of good opportunities," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "But you've got to finish. Only going to get a handful most nights against the New York Rangers. You got to finish a couple of them."
They almost did. Tantalizingly, they almost did.
But that's hockey. It's tantalizing. Infuriating. Maddening. And it's headed back to Los Angeles for Game 5 on Friday night.