Looking to put a cap on business with New York in Game 4 of this Stanley Cup Final series, the Kings laid out a more than admirable effort Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The difference was the man between the pipes for New York.
The Kings had just about total control over the Rangers’ game Wednesday evening. They played simple, disciplined hockey, and dictated the pace while possessing the puck throughout the majority of the game. The one thing they couldn’t direct, or beat, was Henrik Lundqvist.
The Kings fired away for 41 shots Wednesday night, including a merciless onslaught in the third period, but were stonewalled by New York’s goaltender just as the Rangers were with Jonathan Quick in Game 3.
“He played very well for them tonight,” Drew Doughty told reporters following the game regarding Lundqvist’s performance. “He came up with some big saves at some big times. We knew that he was going to play like this every game. We need to get more bodies in front of him. We need to bury our rebounds, and pucks are laying behind home, those have to go in too.”
Held without a goal in Game 3, the Rangers pushed out and grabbed a two-goal lead Wednesday; something they were well accustomed to doing in the first two games of this series.
Just after the final seconds ticked off of the Rangers’ first power play of the evening, New York’s Benoit Pouliot tipped home a John Moore shot from the point and past Jonathan Quick. Pouliot’s goal, a rather impressive redirection just above the waistline, gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 7:25 into the game.
The Kings’ tempo didn’t alter, and they even looked quite comfortable after allowing the first goal. Unfortunately, the Rangers also knocked in the second goal of the night.
Martin St. Louis’ slammed home New York’s second goal on a well-executed crash and shoot sequence. St. Louis found the puck loose just to the left of Jonathan Quick’s crease, and poked it past the Kings’ goaltender while he was still out of position from the Rangers’ prior hacks.
Just over two minutes after St. Louis extended the Rangers’ lead to 2-0, Dustin Brown cashed in for the Kings as they finished killing off their third penalty of the evening.
Brown, who was very aggressive as the Rangers worked the puck laterally along the blue-line atop the Kings’ zone, intercepted a pass, split through two Rangers defensemen, and drove in alone on Henrik Lundqvist, beating him with a set of nifty moves, pocketing the puck low to the right side.
Brown’s goal didn’t just cut the Kings’ deficit in half, it gave the team a monumental adrenaline boost.
The effect was almost scary.
From the point of Brown’s goal at the 8:46 mark of the second period, the Kings outshot the Rangers 26-3 through the final 31:14 minutes of the game.
The Kings’ ferocious push heightened in the third period, but Henrik Lundqvist was up to the task while the Kings buzzed in New York’s zone for almost the entire final 20 minutes. The Rangers registered only one shot in the third period, the Kings 15.
With just over a minute left in regulation time, the Kings found themselves inches away from tying the game. A puck snuck in between the pads of Henrik Lundqvist amidst a scramble in front of the Rangers’ net, and slid slowly to a halt directly on top of the goal line.
Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar jabbed for any opportunity to get a piece of the stationary, unclaimed puck, but with no luck as Rangers’ defenseman Derek Stepan slid the puck back into and under Lundqvist’s pads.
The series will return to STAPLES Center for Game 5 on Friday night. The Kings will once again look to end this series with a win, clinching the Stanley Cup. Puck is slated to drop just after 5:00 PM PST.