Now for the second win.
With Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final set for Staples Center on Friday night — the 13th, in case you worry about things like that — the revived Rangers look to make it two in a row, en route to a possible third and fourth W.
Don’t tell me it’s impossible because: 1) Anything is possible in hockey and, 2) The Maple Leafs did just that in the 1942 Stanley Cup Final. You can look it up; they lost the first three to Detroit and then — bang, bang, bang, bang — they won Lord Stanley’s mug.
Can it happen again?
Well, for starters, there was the totally heart-throbbing 2-1 victory Wednesday night with none other than Martin St. Louis producing the winner following the opening score by Benoit Pouliot.
In a matter of hours, disbelievers were turned to The Hopeful, if not outright, optimists.
“I’ve been in the game a long time to know that sometimes the hockey gods are there, and they were there tonight,” Alain Vigneault said.
“We were real good until they scored their only goal. After that, we weren’t as efficient as we had been ’til that time. But our guys competed when they threw everything at us. Henrik [Lundqvist] stood tall and gave us a chance to play again.”
The capacity crowd will long remember the third period as the Rangers thwarted thrust after relentless Kings thrust right down to wild scrambles around Lundqvist.
“We didn’t want the Cup coming out of our home ice tonight,” Lundqvist said. “Just the thought of it makes me sick.”
The, at least temporary, state of euphoria will last until Friday night when the teams meet in Game 5 in LA. And for that, the good citizens of Rangerville can thank the Rangers’ power play in the first period that put them and the fans in the right mood.
Like Vigneault’s lineup, the Blueshirts’ first man advantage began without any changes. With Brad Richards quarterbacking andRick Nash on the bench, the first unit came up empty. At this juncture, Vigneault deployed his second unit, with John Moorefinding a new role at the point.
Moore, along with Anton Stralman and the other Moore, Dominic, were among the unsung heroes for the winners.
“We have to continue to earn our bounces,” said D-Moore. “We had another two-goal lead tonight, but this time we hung on. It’s something we can build on.”
With Dan Girardi by his side, J-Moore blasted a shot from the blue line, which was deflected by Pouliot into the upper net to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 7:25.
Nash once again played a strong game, but without any goals to show for it.
“When you are in a hole like we were,” he Nash, “you have to take it one at a time.”
Despite the deficit, the Kings dominated in every other way, especially on the face-offs. LA conquered 20-of-24 puck drops in the opening frame, diffusing the Rangers’ ability to establish a starting rush.
Mats Zuccarello, in an attempt to clear the puck out of his own zone, did so too ambitiously, lifting it over the glass for a delay of game penalty. The Kings, proving their man advantage as a true advantage, nearly scored on a shot that found its way through Lundqvist. The puck slowed to a creep at the goal line, where Anton Stralman halted the biscuit in time to keep the Kings scoreless.
But even with the lead, Lundqvist had yet to prove that the King had returned. A gritty goal — the game-winner — by St. Louis 6:27 into the second period. It saved the night for New York.
“We didn’t play a perfect game,” said St. Louis, “but we found a way. We backed each other up and played hard, and eventually got rewarded with the win. We’re still alive.”
But there were many uneasy moments for the Rangers, starting with a Girardi pass resulting in a broken stick and a breakaway for Dustin Brown. The Kings captain then traveled the distance and beat a flattened Lundqvist 8:46 into the second frame.
Entering the third period, Los Angeles remained secure in the knowledge that the final frame in regulation had been its favorite comeback stanza. But this time, the Kings failed, but only because Lundqvist did an excellent imitation of Horatio at the bridge.
“Henrik has been our best player throughout the whole playoffs,” explained Girardi. “When we had troubles, he was there to make the huge save, and that’s what we needed.”
Or, as Nash concluded, “Now we’ll focus on Game 5 in LA.”
Maybe the difficult once again will be done immediately by the Blueshirts and, who knows, the impossible still may happen in a Game 7.
THE MAVEN REMEMBERS
Some Stanley Cup winners finish their regular season under .500. In 1938, the Chicago Blackhawks boasted eight American-born players and an American-born coach, Bill Stewart, who spent the summers as a National League baseball umpire. Nevertheless, the Windy City sextet reached the Final and beat the heavily-favored Toronto Maple Leafs.
In 1948-49, the Leafs also finished under .500, yet they beat Boston in the opening round in five games and swept the Red Wings in four straight to win their third consecutive Cup.