NEW YORK -- Don't bother telling the New York Rangers that the 2014 Stanley Cup Final is finished.
Despite being outshot 41-19 in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers earned a 2-1 home win Wednesday to cut the Los Angeles Kings' lead in the best-of-7 series to 3-1. As they head back to Los Angeles for Game 5 at Staples Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS), they now believe that they can seize control of this series.
"Throughout the playoffs, it gets harder. As you move throughout the series, it gets harder. We have to keep elevating our game," said forward Martin St. Louis, whose second-period goal proved to be the Game 4 winner. "The boys understand; this is do-or-die. We're a confident group. We've done some great things. It obviously hasn't gone the way we want it to go. We have our first win tonight and I'm sure that's going to help our mood."
The Rangers seemed outgunned for large stretches Wednesday, but they weren't overly concerned with how they earned their first win of the Final, just that they got it. With Game 5 on the horizon, the reminders are everywhere of what is possible if a team believes and competes hard enough.
New York overcame a 3-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round. They're also facing a Kings team that came back from a 3-0 hole in the Western Conference First Round against the San Jose Sharks.
With that in mind, a Rangers team which is now 5-0 in elimination games this spring has the potential to make something of a series which seemed all but lost just 48 hours ago.
"We believe in each other in that situation. That's huge," said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 40 saves. "To know that you can pull it off even though they're coming at you in a lot of different ways, I think it starts with a mental belief that we're doing the right things out there and it's going to pay off.
"Being in this situation before, yeah, I think it helps us."
The Rangers likely hoped a standout effort would help prolong this series. In the end, it was surviving the Kings' onslaught that gave them this opportunity. However they earned that chance, they now believe they owe it to themselves and their fans to make something of it.
"It means a lot. I think this is a game we can build some confidence on," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "It wasn't our best game, but at the same time we got the win and that's what we needed."
A return to Los Angeles may also be what the Rangers need. New York played its best hockey of the series in Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center, including an impressive performance in a 5-4 double-overtime loss in Game 2 that was their best effort in the Final. Trailing 2-0 after back-to-back overtime losses, the Rangers returned to New York feeling they deserved at least a split out West.
With their win in Game 4, the Rangers have the opportunity to earn the road win they feel they rightfully deserved when the series started.
"I've never been so happy to have a long flight and a time change," defenseman Dan Girardi said. "It feels great to finally get a win in the Cup Final and get one under our belt and start feeling good about ourselves and how we're playing."
In what he described as the Kings' finest effort of the series, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault expressed satisfaction with how his players took the best shot from a championship-caliber team and didn't flinch. He'll need his team to show a little more in Game 5, but a series that appeared headed for a sweep isn't finished just yet.
"We've got to keep competing hard, keep working," Vigneault said. "We get another chance to play. We're going to be ready for it."