NEW YORK -- On a night when the New York Rangers probably had no business winning, the term "game of inches" was given new meaning at Madison Square Garden when the home team got a little puck luck.
"It was a real tough game I think for [Los Angeles]," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "It was probably their best game of the playoffs that they've played against us."
That may be, but the Rangers received some fortuitous bounces, goal-line stops and timely deflections on the way to a 2-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, giving them some life in this series.
"We had some fortunate bounces and [goalie Henrik Lundqvist] made some huge saves," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "At this time, at this point right now, we're going to need to continue to have great goaltending, we're going to need to continue to get some bounces, and we got to continue to work."
It was the first victory by the Rangers in this best-of-7 series that shifts to Staples Center in Los Angeles for Game 5 on Friday (8 p.m. ET; CBC, NBC, RDS).
New York's good fortune began in the first period when defenseman John Moore ripped a shot from the point that deflected off the stick blade of teammate Benoit Pouliot, then hit Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin and went past goalie Jonathan Quick at 7:25.
"We certainly got a good bounce out of that first goal," Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman said. "That fed us some energy."
The luck continued at 11:50 when Stralman denied Kings forward Jeff Carter a free swipe at a loose puck that was sitting on the goal line. His stick check and clear kept the Rangers ahead 1-0.
Martin St. Louis was in the right spot 6:27 into the second period when he steered home a shot from just off the left post to extend the lead to 2-0, sending the Garden faithful into a frenzy and giving the Rangers their fifth two-goal lead in four games.
Just 2:21 after the St. Louis goal, Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi broke his stick at the Kings' blue line while attempting to keep the puck in the offensive zone at the end of a power play. The unlucky break sprung forward Dustin Brown on a breakaway and the Kings' captain scored to pull his team within 2-1.
"That's where I thought we were playing a real solid game until [Girardi broke his stick]," Vigneault said. "That put us on our heels a little bit. I think this group will learn from that. I definitely know we're going to be better next game."
The Kings shifted then into high gear in a furious attempt to even the game and potentially close out the series. They outshot the Rangers 27-6 after the St. Louis goal, including 15-1 in the third.
But Lundqvist did the rest in a spectacular 40-save performance.
"He was tremendous," Stralman said of Lundqvist. "He came up big numerous times. When the puck was dancing on the goal line, a couple of guys cleared it. He was amazing for us."
Lundqvist literally received one more helping hand, however. With Quick off for an extra attacker, Kings rookie forward Tanner Pearson redirected a shot that somehow found an opening between the pads of Lundqvist and came to a stop just in front of the goal line. Stepan dove into the crease and used his glove to push the puck underneath Lundqvist with 1:11 remaining in regulation.
"Obviously, I don't want it to go in the net, so I'm just trying to do whatever I can to stop it," Stepan said. "After I pushed it back under him, I just don't know where it was going or what was going to happen. It was kind of a lucky play."
Lundqvist turned in his finest effort of the four games against the Kings and was glad the bounces went in the direction of the Rangers.
"When Girardi broke his stick, I'm not going to lie, the first thought was 'here we go again,' " Lundqvist said. "I guess the important thing was to respond the right way. At that point I just kept telling myself, we need to keep this scored going into the third and that was my approach.
"It's always mentally challenging when things happen like that. You feel like you have a lot of it under control and you get a bad break. You just have to respond the right way and stay positive."
The Rangers did, which is why the series is headed back to Los Angeles.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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