Symmetry took the night off.
It could have been such a tidy completed hockey circle, two Stanley Cups clinched by the Kings exactly two years apart. But the Kings will have to wait two more days to get another shot at winning their second Stanley Cup.
The New York Rangers prolonged the Stanley Cup Final with an expected tenacious stand in Game 4, beating the Kings, 2-1, on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden despite getting outshot, 15-1, in the third period and 41-19 overall.
They were aided by two wild goal-line stands with the puck stopping on the goal line, not once but twice. The first was a bid by Kings center Jeff Carter late in the first period, knocked off the goal line by Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman.
"We were that close, if we put those in or tap those in, it's a whole different hockey game," said rookie left wing Tanner Pearson, who nearly tied it late when he deflected the shot of defenseman Alec Martinez.
Snow prevented the puck from crossing the goal line after it went through Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist's legs, and one wee pile of snow prevented Pearson and the Kings from tying the score with about 1 minute 11 seconds remaining. That and the quick thinking of forward Derek Stepan, who knocked the puck under Lundqvist with his glove.
Maybe the new Rangers theme song should be "Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"
"Thank God for soft ice now and then," Coach Alain Vigneault said.
Said Kings center Jarret Stoll: "Usually it trickles in, one or two of them do. Crazy plays. Just hoping we got a bounce there.
"A little curling, a little sweep there to get it across the line."
Game 5 will be Friday at Staples Center and the Rangers have been almost like a mini-version of the Kings this postseason. They are 5-0 in elimination games and the Kings fully expected some serious pushback.
"One mistake and the season is over," Lundqvist said. "You're definitely aware of that. When you go out to these types of games where you know everything can be over after this period or the next two periods."
When the Kings won the Cup in 2012, they took the first three games against the New Jersey Devils but needed six games to close out the series.
Not surprisingly, there hasn't been a sweep in the Stanley Cup Final since 1998, when the Detroit Red Wings did it against the Washington Capitals
"It's the Stanley Cup Final, it's very hard to win four games in a row, no matter what situation you're in," Stoll said. "You've got to be better when it counts at the start of a game. First period, first half of the game we've got to be a lot better.
"We've got to show that desperation in the first half of the game."
The Rangers got off to a 2-0 lead, as they have so many times in this series, and clung on tight.
Benoit Pouliot scored two seconds after the Rangers' power play expired in the first period to make it 1-0, a tip of John Moore shot from the point, and Martin St. Louis got what turned out to be the game winner at 6:27 of the second period, from the left post.
Dustin Brown scored for the Kings on a breakaway after Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi broke his stick.
That cut New York's lead to 2-1 at 8:46 of the second period, and the way the Kings have been scoring in this series, it seemed as though they would have plenty of time to equalize.
"I'm not going to lie. The first thought was, 'Here we go again,' " Lundqvist said.
This postseason has featured mutual stories of resilience in New York and Los Angeles.
Game 5, for the Kings, will be their 26th of the playoffs, which ties an NHL record. The 1987 Philadelphia Flyers and the 2004 Calgary Flames played 26 games in those respective postseasons, both losing in seven games in the Final. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter coached that Flames team, which lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We had a lot of good opportunities," Sutter said of Game 4 against the Rangers. "But you got to finish. Only going to get a handful most nights against the New York Rangers. You've got to finish a couple of them."
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