jeudi 12 juin 2014

Henrik Lundqvist brilliant (and lucky) as New York Rangers force Game 5 with 2-1 win over Los Angeles Kings

source :

Hands up, anyone who thought the Los Angeles Kings, after toiling the maximum 21 games getting to the Stanley Cup final, were going to finish it in four.

You, Henrik Lundqvist?


King Henrik of Sweden votes no.

Lundqvist, who faced 41 shots, including a lopsided third period in which the Kings outshot the home side 15-1, was both brilliant and incredibly lucky — yes, there’s that word again — in erecting a wall that just barely held, allowing the New York Rangers a 2-1 victory that let them live to see another day in the Stanley Cup final.

They still trail the series 3-1, with Game 5 in L.A. on Friday, but the journey of a few thousand miles begins with a single step and Lundqvist, so downcast after the Rangers’ 3-0 Game 3 loss, rebounded with a performance for the ages Wednesday before his adoring constituents at Madison Square Garden.

Martin St. Louis’s second-period goal, on a puck that deflected onto his stick between the pads of Jonathan Quick, was the winner in a game that saw two similar deflections elude Lundqvist but sit on or within inches of the goal line before being spirited away by Ranger skaters.

New York managed just 19 shots at Quick.

It was, after three games of ill fortune, probably only fair that Alain Vigneault’s team should profit from a couple of breaks.

“Maybe,” said the former Vancouver Canucks coach, “the luck is changing a little bit.”

The Rangers were outshot 11-8 in the first period, but two events gave them hope that they might finally get their share of bounces.

The first was a point shot by defenceman John Moore that struck two sticks on its way past Quick for the period’s only goal. It hit L.A. defender Jake Muzzin’s stick shaft, then was tipped out of the air by Benoit Pouliot with a borderline high stick that the league evidently never even looked at twice. Not before the puck was dropped again, at least.

The second was an Alec Martinez shot that squeezed between Lundqvist’s pads but lay on the goal line, where the Kings’ Jeff Carter whiffed on it before Anton Stralman swept it out of danger.

Then, 6:27 into the second, St. Louis was at the corner of the crease to shovel in a pass that had gone off both his linemate Chris Kreider and, possibly, Martinez and between Quick’s legs and New York had the dreaded two-goal lead.

Sure enough, two minutes later, New York defenceman Dan Girardi, who’s had one of the all-time hard-luck finals, had the handle of his stick break off in his hands at the L.A. blueline and Dustin Brown blew past him to break in on Lundqvist and beat him with a pretty forehand deke.

From that point on, the Rangers knew they were in for a war. Nor were they mistaken.

The Kings swarmed them in the latter half of the game, rolling in on the New York defence in waves, but time and again Lundqvist — usually in heavy traffic, with bodies strewn around in heaps — held firm against the tide.

“He’s been our best player all year, one of the best goalies in the world. It’s huge to have him be the backbone of this team,” said forward Rick Nash, who played a big, strong game for the Rangers.

“We were that close. If we tap those in, it’s a whole different hockey game,” said Kings rookie Tanner Pearson, who was the most dangerous skater on either team, and had eight shots on goal. “We were trying to close it out, we knew they would come with a pretty big push. We bounced back but we just couldn’t get that second one.”

“We had a lot of good opportunities,” said L.A. coach Darryl Sutter. “But you got to finish. Only going to get a handful most nights against the New York Rangers. You got to finish a couple of them.”

With Quick on the bench for an extra skater, the Kings attacked feverishly trying for the equalizer, and with 1:11 left another deflection trickled between Lundqvist’s pads but, so late in the game, ground to a halt a couple of inches short of the line in the snowy ice and forward Derek Stepan swept it under Lundqvist’s pads with his glove.

“I knew I couldn’t cover the puck with my hand,” said Stepan, who managed to get the job done with Kings’ bodies and sticks all around him.

“I saw it on the Jumbotron,” said Kings defenceman Drew Doughty. “There were two like that tonight. That was the difference in the game.

“Our team game was good. We had a lot of good opportunities. We didn’t really give up too much against. Both (New York) goals were pretty bad bounces. But the bottom line is that we didn’t score goals when we needed to and that’s why we lost the game.”

“Don’t fool yourself. Hank stood on his head,” Stepan said. “He’s a big part of why we’re going back to L.A. He just competes. That’s one thing I’ve learned about Hank, that he never seems to stop competing. He loves to win and he hates to lose.”

“I knew it wasn’t in because the light wasn’t going on,” Vigneault said, of the last of the Rangers’ great escapes. “I didn’t know exactly where it was. I was able to see the replay after.

“Thank God for soft ice.”