When the Rangers were down 3-1 to Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the determination of Martin St. Louis to play in spite of the death of his mother, France, set an example for dedication that lifted his teammates to a remarkable comeback that carried them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
So it was no surprise that the 38-year-old sparkplug had as much bounce to his spirit as anyone heading into Game 4 last night looking at a 3-0 deficit against the Kings.
"We're upbeat,'' St. Louis said after the pregame skate at Madison Square Garden. "We have a chance to do something special. It's all about momentum, and we're looking to grab it. I know we're in a hole right now, but we're looking for everybody to get hot. Hopefully, we get that tonight, and we get momentum.''
Wouldn't you know it was St. Louis who netted the second-period goal that ultimately gave the Rangers a 2-1 victory and sent the series back to Los Angeles for Game 5 tomorrow night.
He solved the Rangers' biggest obstacle, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, by crashing the net along with linemate Chris Kreider. When Derek Stepan's shot from the left point rebounded in front, Kreider took a whack, sending it bouncing left of the crease, where St. Louis lifted it over Quick for a 2-0 lead.
"The boys understand this is do or die,'' St. Louis said. "We showed up today. Before the game we were in our game-day routine. We're a confident bunch. We did some great things. Obviously, it hasn't gone the way we wanted it to go, but we got our first win tonight, and I'm sure that's going to help our mood.''
The Rangers lost Game 3 when two of the Kings' goals were deflected in by Rangers, including one that went off St. Louis. But the bounces were reversed in Game 4, with the Rangers capitalizing on one break after another.
St. Louis was in position for a good bounce because he and Kreider crashed the net to create traffic at the goalmouth.
"Chris makes a great play going to the net hard,'' Stepan said, "and that's something we've got to continue to do.''
"It definitely went our way,'' St. Louis added. "The end of the game was stressful, but you need puck luck and some bounces. Hopefully, we're going to keep earning them.''
St. Louis was referring to a third period in which the Kings outshot the Rangers 15-1, forcing Henrik Lundqvist to make a bunch of tough saves amid total chaos.
"The stress level was a little high. They're the team that's down. They're taking chances. They're doing things maybe they wouldn't be doing if they were up a goal. But last game, we outshot them 3-1 and lost. Tonight, they outshot us 2-1, and they lost the game. It's about finding ways to win, and tonight, we found a way.''