It was just a flick of a stick, a last-ditch attempt to send both the puck and the Rangers' luck in a different direction.
Benoit Pouliot's first-period goal on a deflection of John Moore's point shot was not the biggest play of the Rangers' 2-1 win over the Kings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night. Nor was Pouliot the game's biggest hero. That honor goes to Henrik Lundqivst, who did everything but stand on his head in a 40-save game.
Yet Lundqvist's heroics would have been meaningless if the Rangers hadn't found a way to put the puck in the net. They failed to do that in a 3-0 loss in Game 3, putting immense pressure on their goalkeeper. This time they were determined to give him a chance to succeed.
Said Dan Girardi: "We got a couple of big goals, get a terrible break on their goal and then Hank kept us in there."
Pouliot's goal showed the Rangers they could score, showed them that goalie Jonathan Quick is not some sort of impenetrable superhuman. Technically, the first goal was not a power-play goal. Emotionally, it sure felt like one for the Rangers and their fans. Not only did it produce a 1-0 lead over the Kings at 7:25, but it also made the Rangers believe they could make something happen with their power play.
The goal came two seconds after a penalty on Willie Mitchell expired. In the two minutes before the goal, the Rangers fired again and again on Quick. Three times he made saves, two other times the puck was deflected away by teammates.
It was the same kind of trouble the Rangers had been having all series with their power play as they entered the game trailing 3-0 in the best-of-seven. In the first three games, the Rangers were 1-for-14 when a man up.
"Special teams are the difference in this league," Rick Nash said after Game 3. "You've got to have your special teams clicking. To score a power-play goal, it's a huge deal."
The Rangers entered Game 4 with the second-worst power play at home (3-for-44) in the playoffs. As Ryan McDonagh said: "It's the third or fourth shot that we say are going to be goals, and we [haven't given] ourselves enough of these opportunities."
Pouliot seized his opportunity. He raised his stick, and a shot that appeared to be going wide deflected in the right direction. Just when the Rangers needed it.