“Thank god for soft ice,” said Alain Vigneault, with the truest words spoken on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
In this space on Wednesday, I proclaimed that if the Rangers merely kept playing as they had been on Monday in the unjustly lopsided 3-0 beating they took in Game 3, they would win Game 4 and send the Stanley Cup Final back to Los Angeles. The Rangers went on to play far worse and almost completely the opposite of how they played on Monday, and eeked out a 2-1 win.
Hockey is a funny, fickle game. Los Angeles outshot the Rangers 41-24. They saw not one, but two pucks reside perilously on the New York goal line, including one with just above a minute to go in this game. They dominated the third period, with New York becoming the first team since the 1995 Detroit Red Wings to muster one shot on goal in a Stanley Cup Final game. Those Red Wings were on the wrong end of a sweep, these Rangers assured themselves that they won’t be swept by surviving it.
It was a commendable performance New York, because they got the victory. In a playoff series, you simply have to look at things as a win or loss proposition afterwards. That’s how the Rangers dressing room seemed to treat it.
“You just have to take it one at a time,” said Rick Nash. “We just worried about this one tonight and now we’ll start to focus on the next one in L.A.”
“We have to build a little bit off that and just focus on one game,” added Dominic Moore.
Still, the Rangers have to know that their performance was not acceptable as the focus shifts to Game 5. Vigneault said as much after Game 4. “It was probably [Los Angeles'] best game of the playoffs that they’ve played against us.” He’s right, and if they duplicate it on home ice, there’s no guarantee Henrik Lundqvist bails them out again, as he did tonight, with a stunning 15 third-period saves.
But like I said. This is the Stanley Cup Final. It’s a win-lose proposition every night. The Rangers survived, and they’ve earned the right to try and survive again after a cross-country flight. Lucky them…