For the third time in four games in the Stanley Cup Final, the Los Angeles Kings went down by a two-goal margin to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night, but unlike the previous times they'd faced the deficit, they weren't able to come all the way back, losing a 2-1 decision and losing an opportunity to clinch the series in four games.
After the game, a lot of the focus was on Henrik Lundqvist, and how his 40 saves in the game carried the Rangers to victory. It's hard to argue with that narrative, especially the way the goaltender played in the third period of the contest. In that frame, the Rangers were outshot by the Kings by a 15-1 margin, and Lundqvist made every stop he needed to.
While the Kings and their fans may be ruing the fact the team failed to clinch the title on Wednesday night, the reality of things is that Los Angeles continued to prove that they are the superior team in the series. While the Rangers have been good in fits and bursts (often early in games when their speed is at its peak), the Kings have consistently shown that they can grind the blue shirts down, and outshooting them by a 30-12 margin over the final 40 minutes of Game 4 was yet another example of that.
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Lundqvist is going to get a lot of credit for stealing the game for the Rangers, but the Kings outplayed them and came within mere inches of winning the game. In the first period, Jeff Carter whiffed on a puck that was stalled out on the Rangers' goal line before Anton Stralman saved the day and fired it out of the crease. Late in the third period, Derek Stepan was the one bailing out the Rangers, pushing the puck away from the goal line and underneath his goaltender to earn a stoppage.
If it hadn't been for the slush on the goal line (and one whiffed attempt by Carter), this would have been a completely different game. The Rangers have not shown an ability to come from behind in games, and the longer the contest stays even the larger the gap between the two clubs appears. The Kings are a team that has been consistently playing well in the third period of games, and the Rangers have yet to show that they can hang with Los Angeles in that situation.
It is for those reasons and more that Kings fans should be confident that the team will close out the series on Friday night. Yes Lundqvist is probably going to have another excellent game, and yes players like Marty St. Louis and Chris Kreider are capable of carrying the load offensively for the Rangers, but the Kings are still rolling four high quality lines and playing absolutely suffocating defense at the other end. Eventually that talent will win out over the last gasp tries of the Rangers to stay alive in the playoffs, and it should ultimately culminate with Dustin Brown hoisting the Stanley Cup on Staples Center ice on Friday night.