Those bad bounces that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and his Rangers teammates blamed for their 3-0 deficit against the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final made a U-turn and went the other way in Game 4 Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist was credited with 39 saves, but he got two assists from teammates Anton Stralman and Derek Stepan clearing loose pucks off the goal line.
Shortly after the opening first-period goal by the Rangers, Stralman saved a shot that slid under Lundqvist and sat on the line. The Kings' Jeff Carter tried poking it in but missed as Stralman got his stick on it.
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"It's just trying to do whatever we can to make sure we keep pucks out of our net," Stepan said of that one.
As dangerous as that might have seemed, Stepan's save in the final minute of the game is the one that will be long remembered. Once again, the puck barely got under Lundqvist and came to a stop in a pile of snow on the line. Carter was coming in late toward the crease, and Anze Kopitar was in a heap right of the crease with defenseman Dan Girardi.
But Stepan got behind Lundqvist before any King could reach the puck in those frantic moments and shoved the puck away with his hand without illegally closing it over the puck. "I saw it right away and was able to get to it," Stepan said. "It's fortunate that it was sitting where it was. The ref did a great job of being over the top of it. He made sure I didn't [close] my hand on it, and we come out of their without the puck in the net."
Girardi -- who broke a stick at the blue line and lost the puck to the Kings' Dustin Brown, setting up his breakaway goal in the second period to make it 2-1 -- might have been the most grateful Ranger in the building when Stepan made his last-minute save.
"I had a great view of that last one," Girardi said. "I was just holding my breath there and kind of spinning and staying by the line. 'Steps' and Hank and all those guys by the crease did a great job to keep it out."
That play was a product of tremendous third-period pressure by the Kings, who outshot the Rangers, 15-1, in the period. "I think we sat back a little bit too much," Stepan said. "Obviously, you want to try to play on your toes as much as you can, but it's all about finding ways to win hockey games."
Now that the Rangers had a little luck come their way, Stepan was asked if it might inspire them for Game 5. "Confidence is weird," he said. "It comes and it goes. We've played some good moments in the series. Tonight we found a way to win and we roll on it . . . You get a little momentum and go to LA"