The New York Rangers staved off elimination Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden with a gutsy 2-1 win in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Rangers avoided a sweep and now find themselves down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Is New York just delaying the inevitable or is this win a sign of things to come?
Perhaps this series is not as out of reach as some may have thought.
Before we look ahead at the rest of the series, let us take a look at how the Rangers kept their Stanley Cup hopes alive.
The first two periods of Game 4 were reminiscent of the first two games of the series in that the Rangers held a two goal lead in the third period, and we all know how those games finished.
Game 4 was very different from the first three games, however, because for the first time in this series, the Kings thoroughly outplayed the Rangers but with a much different result. The Kings outshot the Rangers 41 to 19 in Game 4 but only managed to get one all the way across the line.
The Rangers netted one goal in both the first and second period and held yet another two-goal lead. When Dustin Dustin Brown answered mere minutes after the Rangers’ second goal, it appeared as though another L.A. comeback was in store.
However, despite the amount of pressure that the Kings exerted on Henrik Lundqvist, New York never broke and held onto its one-goal lead for dear life all the way to the final buzzer.
Game 4 was just about as close of a hockey game as there ever was. The Kings had multiple chances to tie the game up but were denied not only by Lundqvist, but also by a small build-up of snow.
On two occasions, the puck stopped midway across the blue line, proving that hockey is a game of inches. One of these instances came at the most crucial point in the game with less than two minutes left in regulation. The puck snuck past Lundqvist and as it began to trickle across the goal line, a small buildup of ice packed up behind the puck and stopped its momentum.
That’s how close the Kings came to forcing overtime and (based on their offensive weapons) probably would have completed the sweep.
So how does this game affect the Rangers moving forward? I believe that it is a whole new series now.
The Rangers are playing with house money now. They are convinced that they have outplayed the Kings to this point in the series and could easily be in position to win this series, and in many ways, that is correct. They collapsed at the end of Game 1 and Game 2 and thoroughly outplayed and outshot the Kings in Game 3 despite being shut out 3-0.
Now that the Rangers have the “first monkey” off their backs, they can and will play looser, harder and more focused. The Kings should be scared and not that their lead for granted because if they do, the Rangers will be right back in this series before they know it.