Stanley Cup Final: New York Rangers Hang On to Win Game 4

By Mary Walsh

The New York Rangers saved themselves from a sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings with a little luck and a lot of persistence. As usual, the Rangers took the early lead, but finally they were able to hold on to it for a 2-1 win. The third period was more harrowing than any we have seen so far in this series, with the Rangers managing only one shot on goal to the Comeback Kings’ 15. After the game, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was asked about that third period:

It was a battle, the whole game. When they turn it up, you need to rely on your teammates and some luck. We’ve been talking about it all series: to beat this team, you need some sort of puck luck and we definitely had it tonight.

The win set a new NHL record, as the Rangers are now 8-0 in elimination games at home since 2008. Lundqvist has been in net for all of those wins.

Wednesday, Lundqvist made 40 saves on 41 shots. At the other end, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick only faced 19 shots and gave up two goals. It was a reversal from Game 3, where the overworked Quick stood on his head for the win and Lundqvist couldn’t catch a break despite seeing far fewer shots. After the game, Lundqvist talked about the team’s mindset:

Whatever happens, we’re winning this game. We’re not losing two at home. We want to get back in this series… it’s not impossible, they’ve done it, we came back from 3-1, but you need to be so smart playing against this team. They’re good and they almost trick you sometimes, you think you have under control and they make a couple of quick plays and create something out of basically nothing.

The Kings were the faster team out of the gate. After five minutes, the Kings had three shots on goal, the Rangers none. The Rangers’ first shot had promise, with Rick Nash going to the net. Derrick Stepan’s shot from the half wall went off of Drew Doughty’s stick and fluttered into Jonathan Quick for a whistle.

A few moments later, the Kings took the game’s first penalty. The Rangers’ power play was very controlled, though they took shots with caution. The strategy did at least keep the puck away from the Kings, but it was almost a minute before the Rangers had a good chance, only to be thwarted by Quick.

The penalty had just expired when New York’s Benoit Pouliot scored with deflected a shot from John Moore at the blue line.

The Kings’ first power play came from a delay of game call, when Anze Kopitar pressured Mats Zuccarello into throwing the puck over the glass. The Kings’ best chance came early in the power play, when a puck crept by Lundvquist but Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman got his stick behind it and swept it out, despite having to compete with Jeff Carter, who was trying to push the puck over the line.

It was a good thing the Rangers scored when they did, because for the last 11+ minutes of the first, their triggers were malfunctioning. They got credit for no shots in the second half of the period. The Kings, meanwhile, kept Lundqvist moderately busy, but they did not beat him in the first.

Over seven minutes and a bundle of penalties had gone in the second when the Rangers stretched their lead to two. A fast zone entry by the Rangers ended with a shot from Derek Stepan that fluttered off of Quick, to be put away by Marty St. Louis.

That got the house jumping, and a little extra zip in the Rangers’ step earned them another power play. The Kings threw themselves into the penalty kill and took a couple of short-handed shots, without straying too far from their own blue line. Lundqvist handled those neatly.

Once the Kings killed off that penalty, they started to chip away at the Rangers’ lead. Kings captain Dustin Brown got by Dan Girardi at the Kings blue line, thanks to a broken stick for Girardi. He was able to carry the puck in mostly unmolested, and beat Lundqvist with a late shot.

That goal seemed to open the floodgates for the Kings. The next few minutes showed the Rangers facing onslaught after onslaught from Kings’ forecheckers. The Rangers did manage to hold the zone finally around the 12 minute mark, and generate a few chances before the puck went out of play.

The Kings then found themselves being pretty effectively ejected from the Rangers’ zone, and were limited to one and dones, while the Rangers at least held the offensive zone for longer than one shot. The Kings’ 70s line of Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter broke that pattern and maintained steady pressure against the Rangers, controlling the puck and peppering Lundqvist with shots. The Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Dwight King line followed up by drawing a penalty that put Dominic Moore in the box for cross-checking.

The penalty kill was made more challenging by another broken stick, this time for Rick Nash. A shot deflected out of play and stopped play before that became much of an issue. After 90 seconds, the Kings’ power play only had one shot on goal. Nash and Stepan were able to kill some time with a short-handed foray to end the penalty kill.

The Rangers missed an opportunity when Quick went behind the net and got tangled up in traffic. The Kings burrowed in and made a shot impossible for the Rangers. Right after that, Jeff Carter broke away in the last minute but this time Lundqvist won the one-on-one contest to keep the Rangers ahead.

The period ended with Los Angeles leading in shots 26-17, 15-11 for the period.

The Kings did not slow down in the third, but the Rangers did not lie down either. Henrik Lundvist had to make some tough saves through traffic in the first ten minutes. One shot from Tyler Toffoli looked dangerous, and it was an expensive shot for the Kings. Marian Gaborik was flattened by Rick Nash behind the net, after getting the puck out to Toffoli.

The Rangers seemed to be repeating the Kings’ third from the last game, clinging to the one goal lead by the skin of their teeth. In the last minutes, Derek Stepan saved a goal by pushing the puck under his goalie with a glove. The referee was in good position to verify that Stepan did not close his hand over the puck.

The Kings pulled Quick in the last 1:11, and an empty net shot from the Rangers’ zone by Brian Boyle went just wide. It didn’t matter, the Rangers held on for the last minute despite some mad scrambles in front of Lundqvist.

Asked whether the team felt like the puck was finally bouncing in their favor, Dominic Moore said:

Definitely when the puck lays on the goal line and doesn’t cross you feel a bit fortunate. But personally I feel like you can’t really think about breaks going one way or the other, you just got to continue to earn your breaks. Hopefully … tonight’s something we can build off in terms of doing some things well and we’ll see what happens next game.

Ryan McDonagh led the Rangers in time on ice with 28:10. Martin St. Louis, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan each took three shots, and no Ranger took more. Dan Girardi blocked six shots for the team lead. Dominic Moore was the best Ranger in the faceoff circle at 47%.

Tanner Pearson led the Kings in shots with eight. Jake Muzzin led the team with five blocked shots, and Drew Doughty led the team in minutes with 26:45. Justin Williams was pointless for the first time in five games.

Game 5 will be played in Los Angeles on Friday at 5 pm PT.

Stanley Cup Final: Kings Win in Double OT, Lead Series 2-0

By Mary Walsh

The Los Angeles Kings took a 2-0 series lead over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday. They took their first lead of the game and won more than ten minutes in to double overtime. A Willie Mitchell shot, the game winner was redirected by Dustin Brown.

It was Mitchell’s second point of the game. After the game he said:

I don’t know, we’ve been digging ourselves holes here lately, but our resiliency… We find a way to dig deep and that’s something you just can’t re-create.

The Kings seem to be re-creating it with some proficiency. They have a thing for allowing two goals early and coming back to win anyway. Saturday, they had to recover from three two-goal deficits, twice cutting the deficit to one and finally tying the game in the third period at 4-4.

This is the first time in Stanley Cup history that the first two games of the Final have gone to overtime three seasons in a row.

For their part, the Rangers played valiantly, pushing the Kings back again and again, but they never could stretch the lead past two goals, or hold any of their leads for long enough. Rick Nash, who needs to score, gave it a good shot. Eight shots, actually, leading the Rangers in shots on goal.

Jonathan Quick made 33 saves for the win, Henrik Lundqvist made 39 saves for the Rangers.

The first period was rough and tumble. Kings forward Jeff Carter got tangled up in a hip check from Ryan McDonagh, which sent him briefly to the Kings’ dressing room. As soon as Carter got back to the bench, Jarret Stoll put Rangers’ forward Dan Girardi into the boards and Girardi left the game for a bit with a right hand injury. He was not gone for long. That all happened in the first half of the period.

The Rangers had the first power play of the game 7:58 in, when Marion Gaborik was called for tripping. The Rangers started very well and got credit for a couple of shots, but could not convert against the aggressive Kings penalty killers. Those penalty killers also found a short-handed chance, as is their habit.

It was just a few seconds after the penalty expired that the Rangers took advantage of a turnover by the Kings’ Justin Williams. Dominic Moore sent the puck up to Ryan McDonagh at the point. He wasted no time and fired the puck in before Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick knew what was coming.

With just under five minutes left in the period, McDonagh went to the box for cross checking Kings captain Dustin Brown. The Kings only managed one shot during the power play. Despite a good chance after the penalty expired (thwarted by a snappy glove save from Lundqvist), the Kings found themselves in another two goal hole before the period ended.

The second goal came from a scramble in the Kings’ end. Derick Brassard got the puck behind the net, sent it up to McDonagh, whose shot went off of Quick to Mats Zuccarello. He was waiting at the corner of the net, and gently tapped it in.

Unlike the last game, the Kings did not get one back before the period ended. The shots after the first were almost even at 10-9 for New York.

The Kings wasted no time with their comeback in the second. At 1:46, the Kings took advantage of a turnover from Brad Richards. Dwight King sent the puck to the slot where Justin Williams was ready to shoot and go to the net, and then pick up his own rebound. He controlled the rebound and passed it back to Jarret Stoll, who found Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist out of position and cut the Rangers’ lead in half.

 

Just past the ten minute mark of the second, the Kings took a too many men penalty. The Kings did a good job of pushing the Rangers out of their zone, but the Rangers made good use of a fast entry, a two on one of Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan. Stepan set up St. Louis for a nice shot from the circle to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.

The Kings got another power play when Mats Zuccarello swept Dustin Brown’s leg out from under him. It took them a while to get set up  but Willie Mitchell made good use of traffic in front of Lundqvist to score from the blue line.

The Rangers only let that stand for 11 seconds. A faceoff win and a slick forecheck caused havoc in the Kings’ zone. Quick went to move the puck then tried to leave it for defenseman Willie Mitchell. When the puck bounced over Mitchell’s stick, Mats Zuccarello was right behind him to pounce on it. Zuccarello had barely moved the puck ahead of the goal line when Brassard snapped  it in to restore the two goal lead.

It was the quickest two goals in a Stanley Cup Final in 67 years.

The period ended with the shots slightly favoring the Rangers 22-20.

The Kings scored early in the third period, a goal that had Lundqvist verbalizing his objections. Dwight King fell on the Rangers’ goalie just before the puck went in. It could be argued that he was pushed over by the Rangers’ defenseman, but he was not pushed in to Lundqvist, and was in fact in the blue paint behind Lundqvist and McDonagh before he fell.

In any case, King got the goal with assists to Matt Greene and Justin Williams.

The next few minutes were marked by oddly symmetrical back and forth play. In the seventh minute of the period, the Kings finally held the zone for long enough to put some pressure on the Rangers. Even after a timeout, the Rangers had trouble getting in to the Kings’ zone. A failed clear at the Rangers’ blue line, followed by McDonagh losing his footing near the net, and the Kings had the Rangers outnumbered in front of their net. Marian Gaborik tied the game with his 13th goal of the playoffs.

The Kings did not score in the first two minutes of the next period. On the contrary, the Rangers had the Kings trapped in their own zone five minutes in, forcing the Kings to use their timeout after an icing. The game picked up again after that with both sides trading chances.

One second over the half way mark, Dominic Moore was called for catching Jeff Carter in the face with his stick. The high sticking penalty had the potential to be a heartbreaker. Instead, the Rangers held the Kings off until Rick Nash could sell a convincing interference penalty that put Justin Williams in the box and evened things up for about 30 seconds.

With their own man advantage, the Rangers had no better luck, on that power play or the next that came when Jeff Carter ran into Lundqvist behind the net. There was some concern about Lundqvist’s fitness to continue but he stayed in and seemed no worse for wear.

The first OT period ended without any resolution to the game. The second OT period lasted for ten minutes and was penalty-free. Anze Kopitar won a defensive zone faceoff for the Kings, Slava Voynov took the puck out. Kopitar controlled the puck near the Rangers’ faceoff circle, then sent the puck up to Willie Mitchell at the point. Mitchell’s shot went in between Gaborik and Brown, allowing Brown to tip it past Lundqvist.

The teams meet again in New York, on Monday at 5:00 pm PT.

Larry Levitt on Pro Hockey

by Larry Levitt

DALY CITY–The San Francisco Bulls really have moments when they really look like they have a good team that’s getting it together and then they have a momentary loss and all it takes is that one little momentary loss of team work and you give a team an opening and they take it and unfortunately for the Bulls they’ve been capitalizing on those openings a lot lately.

The Bulls lost in their last game in Stockton 5-1 for their fourth straight loss, it was a local rivalry and they should be up for those games and it’s not a lot of travel and it’s not like their flying or riding the bus for a long time it’s a couple hours to Stockton from the City it’s early in the season still and yes you need to get the win if your going to get to the playoffs and go far in the playoffs you need to have some confidence and this is where you got to start.

You got to take them one game at a time and get that win and work on the second win and the third and get a string of them together and every team goes through a losing period you just don’t want multiple strings of them. The Bulls need to come out and play a good game of hockey and just have fun and play the sport and play the game and it will all come to them but they got to put the work in it doesn’t come easy.

The thing with the ECHL or the minor league level you really don’t have time to jell and get used to each other and their all hockey players and they all know the game but the tendencies of each individual and if you stay with a teammate for a long period of time you get to learn their tendencies and where their going to be and it makes it that much easier for your game. You don’t have to stop and look and think it’s just automatic and that’s what they got to get to they’ve got to learn each others game.

San Jose Sharks update: I was fortunate to be able to talk to Sharks left winger Tomas Hertl the other night and he’s well grounded whose really doing well. Hertl’s English is a lot better than my Czech 101 that I learned on You Tube it was pretty funny but with Burns coming back on that line it’s going to take a little time to get that timing back. What I like about Hertl and Burns is they go straight in front of the net.

Hertl and Burns knows Joe Thornton is the passer, they know they’ll find you but you got to go to those sturdier areas in front of the net and pay the price of the hard hits and the pushes and the shoving. They’re not scared to do that, they go in there and do their job and they cover that area. Patrick Marleau he’s a great team player, he’s a great skater he uses his speed to his advantage against the Tampa Bay Lighting.

Marleau wiffed on a shot which actually pulled the goalie out of position in the Tampa Bay game last Thursday night at SAP in San Jose and it allowed him to do a simple backhand into the net and when you get the breaks and when things are going well you take them. You don’t fight it you just go with it, the Sharks were very fortunate to win because Tampa Bay at times had pretty good shots at the Sharks net and they didn’t get the breaks.

The Bulls weren’t allowed to get the puck in the net for one reason or another and it was Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi who came up with some really good saves or the defense just got their stick on it enough. It was a pleasure to watch the Lighting right winger Martin St. Louis what a great player he is. When he was on the ice I was isolating on him and it was a joy to watch he’s got the speed. He’s not the size but he’s got the speed, he’s got the hands and he’s just an amazing hockey player.

The Sharks are hosting the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night at the SAP for the second in this five game homestand which started last Thursday with the Lighting.

Larry Levitt does pro hockey analysis each week for Sportstalk Radio