- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- No brooms necessary at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
Nope, the New York Rangers salvaged some pride and eked out a win against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, avoiding a sweep and sending the series back to L.A. with their 2-1 victory.
Even though the Blueshirts were outplayed through large stretches in Wednesday’s game, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was at his very best, delivering a phenomenal 40-save performance when the Rangers needed it most.
Falling behind 2-0 for the third time this series, the Kings still dominated and outpossessed the Rangers by a wide margin in Game 4, but Lundqvist unilaterally prevented L.A. from taking the Cup home with them on their flight back to California.
Lundqvist, who was bested by Kings netminder Jonathan Quick in Game 3, made one particularly outstanding save, robbing Jeff Carter on a solo breakaway in the second period to preserve a precarious one-goal lead.
The Kings were relentless in peppering the King himself in the third period -- the Rangers did not register a single shot on goal for almost 13 minutes -- but the steady Swede wasn’t ready for the Rangers' summer to begin. Two frenzied, goal-mouth scrambles in the final minutes of the game had Rangers fans biting their nails, but Lundqvist had a little help from Derek Stepan with the puck sitting on the goal line with just more than a minute left. Stepan batted it out of the crease to stop L.A. from tying it up.
The Rangers avoided elimination and now find themselves trailing 3-1, a difficult task but far from impossible. Earlier this spring, the Rangers erased a 3-1 series deficit in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rough series: Defenseman Dan Girardi is having a series he’d like to forget, with a few particularly costly blunders that have ended up in the Rangers’ net. The 30-year-old blueliner, the goat in the Rangers' Game 1 loss in L.A., made one glaring gaffe in the second period that gave the Kings bench new life. Girardi gave the puck away at the blue line (it was not immediately clear whether his stick broke or not) and Kings captain Dustin Brown made a beautiful move, deking backhand to forehand six times, to beat Lundqvist on a breakaway and cut the Rangers' lead in half to 2-1.
First strike: It wasn’t technically a power-play goal, but Benoit Pouliot’s expert redirection of John Moore’s shot at 7:25 gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first period just as Willie Mitchell’s high-sticking penalty expired. Heading into Wednesday’s action, the Rangers were 1-for-14 on the man advantage after being blanked on six power-play attempts in Game 2 Monday night. Pouliot’s goal was his fifth of the postseason, and he remains one of the team’s most enticing unrestricted free agents set to hit the market July 1. Despite his propensity for taking ill-advised, offensive-zone penalties, Pouliot has had an impressive regular and postseason. Both he and defenseman Anton Stralman appear to be setting themselves up for a nice payday soon.
Shaking things up: After sustaining three straight losses to the Kings, coach Alain Vigneault opted to shake up his lineup with a few changes Wednesday night. The most notable was his decision to demote veteran center, and de facto captain, Brad Richards to fourth-line duty while using Dominic Moore on a line with Chris Kreider and Martin St. Louis. Carl Hagelin earned himself a promotion to the first line with Stepan and Rick Nash. Vigneault also elected to scratch winger Daniel Carcillo, who is now eligible to play after serving a six-game suspension incurred in the Eastern Conference finals. Though Carcillo took pregame warm-ups, gritty fourth-liner Derek Dorsett remained in the lineup instead.