Lundqvist Keeps Rangers’ Stanley Cup Bid Alive in 2-1 Home Win

The New York Rangers’ slim Stanley Cup chances hung on the pads of Henrik Lundqvist last night. As he has in every must-win home playoff game since 2008, the All-Star goaltender delivered.

Lundqvist made 40 saves, including 15 in the third period, as the Rangers stayed alive in the postseason with a 2-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings at Madison Square Garden. It’s the first step in New York’s attempt to become the second team in National Hockey League history to win a Stanley Cup after trailing 3-0 in the finals.

The Rangers have now won eight consecutive home playoff games when facing elimination dating back to 2008, an NHL record. Lundqvist has allowed multiple goals in just one of those games.

“When everything is on the line, you just have to challenge yourself the right way, as a team and personally,” Lundqvist said after the game. “One mistake and your season is over. You’re definitely aware of that. It’s tough and it’s fun.”

The series now shifts to Los Angeles for Game 5 tomorrow night. If the Rangers win, they will host Game 6 on June 16.

While winning the series will do little to affect the bottom line for Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the team, there is financial incentive to the Rangers winning one more game. That means the series would return to MSG, where home playoff dates generate about $3 million in revenue and $1 million in operating profit for the company.

The Rangers opened the scoring seven minutes, 25 seconds into the game, when Benoit Pouliot redirected a shot from defenseman John Moore. At 6:27 of the second period, forward Martin St. Louis slapped home a bouncing puck that had slid behind Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to make it 2-0.

Two-Goal Leads

“We’ve had two-goal leads a few times in this series. We had one tonight and we managed to hold on” Rangers forward Dominic Moore said. “Hopefully, it’s something we can build on as well.”

The Kings had plenty of chances, firing 41 shots on Lundqvist. One, which beat the Rangers goaltender with less than two minutes remaining in the third period, slid to a stop prior to crossing the goal line.

“Thank God for soft ice down there,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said after the game.

The Toronto Maple Leafs in 1942 are the only team to rally from a 3-0 series deficit in the finals to win the Stanley Cup. Heavily favored entering the finals, the Maple Leafs won 4-3 in Game 4. After Canadiens coach Jack Adams was suspended indefinitely for punching a referee, Toronto outscored Montreal 15-4 over the final three games.

3-0 Deficits

Three other teams have overcome a 3-0 deficit in playoff series, including this year’s Kings -- who lost the first three games of their opening-round series against the San Jose Sharks. That’s four wins by the 177 NHL teams that have trailed 3-0 in a best-of seven series -- a 2.3 percent success rate.

The numbers are equally grim in other sports. One of 33 Major League Baseball teams has accomplished the comeback -- the 2004 Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees -- and none of the 110 National Basketball Association teams to go down 3-0 has rallied to win the series.

“Down three, you just have to take it one at a time,” Rangers forward Rick Nash said. “Now we’ll start to focus on the next one in L.A.”

The Rangers reiterated throughout the first three games that they didn’t think they’d played poorly. The team can draw on the fact that it won five consecutive games earlier this postseason, a run that stretched from the final three games of a second-round series against Pittsburgh through the first two games against Montreal in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Kings outshot the Rangers 41-19 last night in their bid to become the first team in 16 years to sweep the Stanley Cup finals. Lundqvist said his team was motivated by avoiding that fate on home ice.

“Just the thought of it makes me sick,” he said. “The goal now is to see it through to a Game 7.”

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