It took every single one of Henrik Lundqvist’s 40 saves to keep the New York Rangers‘ season from ending Wednesday night. But if the Rangers are going to actually make the Stanley Cup Final a real series against the Los Angeles Kings rather than just a blip, the Rangers’ must do more offensively to help their star goaltender.
The Rangers, who now trail the best-of-seven series 3-1 with Game 5 in Los Angeles on Friday night, put up 18 shots through two periods and clung to a 2-1 lead as the third period opened. Then, New York managed just one paltry shot on goal over the final 20 minutes. Meanwhile, the Kings unleashed a furious rally, controlling play and firing 15 shots at the Rangers’ goal, only for Lundqvist to stop them all and secure a New York win.
For one period, and as tonight showed, for one game, Lundqvist is good enough when at his best to steal a game from any team in the NHL. But entering Game 4 down 3-0 in the series, asking Lundqvist to steal the four games the Rangers need to rally and win their first Stanley Cup since 1994 is far too much — and somewhat unfair to one of the NHL’s best net minders.
Los Angeles isn’t going to be shutdown forever. If the Kings continue to possess shot advantages such as the 41-19 edge they enjoyed in Game 4, the result is going to turn and Los Angeles is going to win the last game it needs to become Stanley Cup champions for the second time in three years. Too many Kings, such as Justin Williams and Marian Gaborik, have been too clutch through these playoffs to not come through again at some point in this series.
New York’s four goals in the Game 2 overtime loss at Los Angeles now seem like a distant memory. The Rangers have scored just twice since, but that’s been good enough to split the last two games. That won’t be good enough moving forward. Goals tonight from Benoit Pouliot and Martin St. Louis were the second for each player in the series, and they are the only two Rangers with more than one goal in the four games so far.
The Rangers have one of the greatest goaltenders in the world in Lundqvist and he deserves all the accolades he receives. But as great as he is, he can’t win the Stanley Cup alone, and subjecting him to 40 shots a night the rest of the way while generating next to no offense late in games isn’t a recipe for success.