Thinking about another noon-time Live Chat Friday. Plan on it. I will let you know if we have to bail. Be there.
My column from The Journal News and Lohud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
New York being what it is, and bandwagons being what they are, there sure was a lot of noise around here that the Rangers turned some sort of corner in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final when they beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.
That they now might actually pull off something that’s only happened once, and not in the last 72 years.
Whoa. Whoa. Not so fast.
The Rangers accomplished one thing on Wednesday night, and it’s the same thing they need to accomplish in Game 5 Friday — survive.
“There’s so much work to be done here, we’re just looking at the next game as a great challenge for us,” Henrik Lundqvist said.
It is all the Rangers can do in a series that has been so fabulous to watch — unless you root for one of the teams; then it’s been fabulous only if you enjoy hearing and feeling your heart thump.
It’s been a series that’s difficult to explain; where Los Angeles won two games in which it never led; where you could argue that the worse team won a few of the games; and a series that might set the unofficial Stanley Cup record for “puck luck.” The series could be tied 2-2, and either team could be up 3-1. The Kings are.
The Rangers’ 2-1 win was probably their worst game of the series, at least the second half of it was. At best, it wasn’t their best. Nor was it L.A.’s best, and the Kings sure threatened to win it, with a 15-1 shots advantage in the third period, with a shot off the crossbar and two pucks that miraculously stopped in the accumulated snow on the goal line.
“In (Game 3) we outshot them two-to-one and we lost the game,” said Martin St. Louis, who scored his eighth goal of the playoffs, the game winner, on Wednesday. “(In Game 4) they outshoot us two-to-one and they lose the game. It’s about finding ways, and we did that. We keep the series alive, and we’ll travel to L.A. for Game 5 and bring it back here. That’s our goal.
“We didn’t play a perfect game, but we found a way.”
The Rangers arrived in Los Angeles late Thursday and practiced in the evening. They have a lot to fix, still, and not a lot of time to fix it; and not many player moves they could possibly make. Coach Alain Vigneault, who juggled three of his lines, normally doesn’t change much after wins, anyway.
“It’s about competing,” Lundqvist, who is 11-2 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .959 save percentage in his last 13 elimination games, said. “When everything is on the line, you just have to challenge yourself the right way, I guess, as a team and personally. You have to go out there and leave everything out there and be extremely focused.
“One mistake and the season is over. You’re definitely aware of that. When you go out to these type of games where, you know, you know everything can be over after this period or after the next two periods, you try even harder to be focused and making the right decisions out there. It’s exciting, though.”
Defenseman Dan Girardi was thrilled to get out of Game 4 for a few reasons. He broke his stick and was beaten for Los Angeles’ only goal, on a breakaway by Dustin Brown, and has just had some of the worst luck and, to be fair, has committed some terrible turnovers in the series, including the game loser in overtime in Game 1.
“I’ve never been so happy to have a long flight and a time change,” Girardi said.
That’s all they got Wednesday. They need to be sure that they have another game remaining after the next long flight and the next time change.
Then, maybe after Game 6, they can start to think about the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the only team in Cup Final history to come back from 0-3.
RICHARDS UNDERSTANDS HIS DEMOTION
The Rangers flew across the continent, then held a full evening practice in Los Angeles Thursday, and from appearances, coach Alain Vigneault will stick to his practice of not making lineup changes after a victory.
That means Brad Richards is still in the lineup for Friday night’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, and on left wing on the fourth line.
“Brad’s a team-first guy,” Vigneault said. “I mean, as a coach — and especially at this time of the year when you don’t get a lot of these opportunities — sometimes you’ve got to make decisions that might be a little tough to make on a personal aspect. But on a team aspect, you have to. I just felt that certain guys were playing a little bit better than Brad. You know, that’s the way it is.”
Richards told reporters after practice: “Game 2 was rough. I don’t know what happened. I couldn’t get out of my own way.”
He also said, about being told of his demotion prior to Game 4: “You go try to win a game. When you’re down 3-0, something has got to change.”
Déjà vu: The Kings won the Cup in 2012, by beating the Devils in the final … a series in which they won the first two games in overtime, won the third by shutout, then lost Game 4. Sound familiar? The ’12 Kings also lost Game 5, before winning the Cup in Game 6.
Most players and coaches who have been through the ups and downs of playoff series, and most who have won Cups, agree that momentum from game to game doesn’t exist.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter is one.
“I know it’s usually media-created,” Sutter said. “There’s momentum during games and momentum with penalties, momentum with scoring chances, things like that. But if it was always about momentum from game to game, then most series would be over in four and it wouldn’t be called four out of seven; it would be the team that won the first game must have the momentum, and the team that won the last game must have all the momentum.
“I don’t think you get to that point ever, quite honestly. I’ve never been a believer in that because it bears itself out.”
This and that: Martin St. Louis’ goal in Game 4 was his third game winner in these playoffs, and the 11th of his career. … The Rangers lead the playoffs in first-period goal differential at plus-14 (26-12). … The Stanley Cup record for games played is 26 (Philadelphia in 1987, Calgary in 2004). Game 5 will be Los Angeles’ 26th and the Rangers’ club-record 25th. It will also be the 93rd game of these playoffs, breaking the record of 92 set in 1991. … The Rangers are the 27th team in Stanley Cup Final history to face a 3-0 series deficit since the NHL adopted the best-of-seven format in 1939, but just the seventh to avoid a four-game sweep.
Wednesday: Los Angeles 3, Rangers 2, OT
Saturday: Los Angeles 5, Rangers 4, 2OT
Monday: Los Angeles 3, Rangers 0
Wednesday: Rangers 2, Los Angeles 1
Friday: at Los Angeles, 8 p.m., NBC
x-Monday: at Rangers, 8 p.m., NBC
x-Wednesday: at Los Angeles, 8 p.m., NBC
Photo by the Associated Press.