King Henrik lives up to his name for Rangers

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist celebrates his team's victory against the Los Angeles...

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist celebrates his team's victory against the Los Angeles Kings with teammate Derek Stepan after Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final at Madison Square Garden in New York, June 11, 2014. (BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images/AFP)

Steve Simmons, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:24 AM ET

NEW YORK - In the mass confusion that was the final minute, the final minutes, Henrik Lundqvist did something he rarely ever does.

He screamed at the referee.

He yelled for a whistle. He thought the puck was under his pads. In truth, he admitted very early this morning, that a few seconds later, after seeing the replay, he apologized.

There were 14 seconds left to play and an Alec Martinez shot was deflected by Mike Richards and the Los Angeles Kings had an opportunity to decide the Stanley Cup in overtime if it went in.

The puck hit Lundqvist. He thought he had it. He thought it was frozen beneath him. He thought this was their victory.

But the replay was sudden and telling and so fortunate for the New York Rangers in need of something fortunate to happen. Derek Stepan could have put his hand on the loose puck. He didn’t. He backhanded it with his glove — there was no penalty shot to be called.

The Rangers, like a fighter on the ropes holding on through the final rounds, with legs wobbly, with nothing left, playing their worst period and their worst minutes of the Stanley Cup, didn’t get knocked out. They stood up, somehow, because their goaltender stood tall.

Jonathan Quick won Game 3 for the Kings. Lundqvist won Game 4 for the Rangers. And suddenly, there won’t be a sweep in this strange one-team series. Suddenly, there is more challenge for the Kings, primarily because The King lived up to his name, not allowing Los Angeles to score more than one goal, not allowing his Rangers to lose, realizing after so many years he had to make an impact on this Stanley Cup final if he is to be what we truly know him and believe him to be.

“We didn’t want to see the Cup come out on our home ice here. The thought of that, made me feel sick,” said Lundqvist. He took the challenge personally. And he responded. He more than responded. He willed the Rangers to victory in this strange Stanley Cup Final.

The Rangers probably played their worst game of the series Wednesday night and won 2-1.

The Kings played their most complete game of the series and lost 2-1.

The bounces, so much against the Rangers in Game 3, came back ever so slightly when they two pucks - one in the first period, one in the third - rolled around and stopped at the goalline, not moving.

“When you play the game you have to battle and you have to rely on your teammates and rely on some luck.”

Last night, some luck was better than most of his teammates. The Kings outshot New York 14-1 in the third period, 25-5 over the second half of the game. “I felt good tonight.” If he had just been average as he was in the first two games in Los Angeles, the series ended in Game 4, a sweep for Los Angeles. But he wouldn’t and couldn’t accept this from himself. You could see that from the beginning.

Just before the game began, Lundqvist stood beside his goal crease, bent over, clearly focussing while his teammates skated around to begin the game. He didn’t move for several seconds. He was just there, almost in a trance, in a moment of focus, his goal crease still clean.

Finally, after a long wait, he scraped the crease, he turned the blue paint in white shavings. And as a goalie who plays as deep in the net as he does, those shavings meant a lot when they all but prevented the puck from scoring in the first period and final minute.

In each case, one of his players helped him out. Anton Stralman, the soon to be free agent defenceman who has made himself a lot of money with his playoff play, managed to fight off Jeff Carter’s stick in the first period, otherwise Los Angeles scores.

In the final seconds, it was Derek Stepan, not a defenceman, making the biggest defensive play of his life. He batted at the puck in the goal crease, sitting by the goal line, with the right side of hockey glove. Had he used his palm, there would have been a penalty shot called. But Stepan knocked the Richards deflection off the goal line. The game ended. There was life for Lundqvist, life for the Rangers.

“We knew,” said Lundqvist. “One mistake and it’s over. We were aware of that. It’s that intense. It’s extremely tough but this is fun.”

It didn’t look like fun. “Thank God for soft ice,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. He didn’t have to say Thank God for his goalie. That was obvious enough. 


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