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Second line does everything but score

6/12/2014

NEW YORK -- The Los Angeles Kings' second line was dominant in Game 4.

But when the final buzzer sounded, Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli had nothing to show for their efforts.

Carter, Pearson and Toffoli combined for 14 shots, but none of them found the back of the net, and the Kings failed to become the first team since 1998 to complete a Stanley Cup finals sweep, falling 2-1 to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Game 5 is Friday night at Staples Center.

"I think [our line] created a lot tonight," said Pearson, who finished with a game-high eight shots in just 13 minutes, 15 seconds of ice-time.

"Unfortunately, things didn't go our way, but I mean, we've created a lot all playoffs. There were a couple close ones tonight, but I mean you can't really look at it, you just gotta move on to the next one."

Those close ones couldn't have come any closer. The Kings got a pair of pucks behind Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but Carter couldn't get his stick on either of them.

Midway through the first period, Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman swatted the puck off the goal line with his stick. Then, with just 1:11 left in the third, Pearson's deflection of Kings defenseman Alec Martinez's turnaround shot skidded under Lundqvist's pads. But the puck was stopped by a build-up of ice right in front of the goal line, and Rangers center Derek Stepan alertly gloved it out of harm's way without covering it, which would've resulted in a penalty shot.

"You put those in or tap those in, and it's a whole different hockey game," Pearson said.

Carter was robbed on a breakaway by the left pad of a sprawling Lundqvist late in the second, and Toffoli came up empty on the doorstep midway through the third.

"We had a lot of good opportunities," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "But you got to finish. You're only going to get a handful most nights against the New York Rangers. You've got to finish a couple of them."

They didn't. That's why they're flying back to Los Angeles without the Stanley Cup in hand. A championship parade will have to wait. The Kings still have to get one more win.

While everyone talks about L.A.'s dominant first line of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown, the troika of Carter (10-14-24), Pearson (4-8-12) and Toffoli (7-6-13) also has been quite potent. Not bad for a former 40-goal scorer and a couple of kids.

"Jeff Carter's a top player in the National Hockey League," Sutter said before the game. "Anytime you get to play with a top player, either you elevate your game or you don't play with them.”

Pearson is only 21 and Toffoli is 22. It's hard to tell.

"I think you just gotta keep your head in it and realize what's at stake," Pearson said. "There's so many veteran guys on our team that help you keep your head into it, so it wasn't that hard."