Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist makes do-or-die stand to stop Kings, 2-1

Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist makes do-or-die stand to stop Kings, 2-1
New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist makes a save on a shot by Jeff Carter as a defenseman's stick goes flying above him during the second period of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Henrik Lundqvist, Anton Stralman's stick, a pile of snow and Derek Stepan's hand kept the Kings from hoisting the Stanley Cup on Wednesday.

"When you play this game, you have to battle, you have to rely on your teammates, and sometimes you have to rely on some luck," said Lundqvist, the New York Rangers' goalie. "Tonight, we had that a couple times."


Lundqvist came to Game 4 chafed by bad breaks and the fact his opposing goalie, Jonathan Quick, showed him up at Madison Square Garden on Monday with a 32-save shutout in Game 3.

So he responded with a 40-save effort to send the series back to Staples Center on Friday, the Kings leading three games to one.

Lundqvist's ability to thrive in elimination games is on par with the Kings' 7-0 showing in do-or-die contests this postseason.

The Swedish goalie is now 11-2 in playoff elimination games since 2012 with a 1.30 goals-against average, and he's 5-0 this campaign.

In each of those five games, he's allowed just one goal. By saving 40 shots, he became the first goalie to do so in a Stanley Cup Final elimination victory since the league began recording the statistic in the 1950s.

Wednesday's effort sparkled in its consistency, as Lundqvist repeatedly denied the Kings on chances and moments they'd broken through on in the first three wins.

He also needed a heavy dose of "puck luck" as he calls it too, as two shots got behind him and trickled to the goal line without getting all the way across.

On a penalty kill, Stralman swiped away a shot by Kings center Jeff Carter that got under Lundqvist and touched just over the goal line before the Rangers defenseman knocked it out while keeping Kings forward Marian Gaborik from scoring.

"I got a little lucky," Stralman said.

Lundqvist had to do much of the heavy lifting, however, denying Kings forward Tanner Pearson's eight shots, including a good backhand in the first period.

He was beaten only because snakebit defenseman Dan Girardi's stick broke on a pass he turned over to Kings forward Dustin Brown, who took the gift on a breakaway, beating Lundqvist to his left 8 minutes, 46 seconds into the second period.

But then Lundqvist answered by using his left leg to stop Carter on another breakaway.

With the Rangers in the midst of getting out-shot 15-1 in the third, Lundqvist stoned Kings forward Tyler Toffoli on an open shot midway through the third, with NHL-playoff points leader Anze Kopitar standing in front. Lundqvist's impassioned head-nodding showed he was feeling the moment.

"It's about competing," Lundqvist said. "When everything is on the line, you just have to challenge yourself the right way, I guess, as a team and personally. You have to go out there and leave everything out there and be extremely focused."


His effort was met with the approval of what New York Coach Alain Vigneault called "the hockey gods."

A shot by Kings defenseman Alec Martinez that was tipped by Tanner Pearson with 1:11 left in the game sneaked through Lundqvist and skidded toward the line only to be slowed by a pile of slushed ice — manufactured by Lundqvist.

"Probably the product of moving a lot," he said.

To ensure no King could get the puck, Rangers center Stepan reached down and batted it out of harm's way.

"Thank God for soft ice," Vigneault said.

Stepan said he saw the puck, calmly reasoning, "You don't want it to go into the net … I knew I couldn't put my hand on it, so I used the side of my glove.

"Don't kid yourself," Stepan said. "Hank stood on his head and he's a big reason why we're going back to L.A."

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