Stanley Cup: Rangers stay alive with Game 4 win

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Stanley Cup: Rangers stay alive with Game 4 win

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- The champagne the Los Angeles Kings had ready for a coronation stayed in boxes. The New York Rangers suddenly have some life in the Stanley Cup finals.

Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves and had the Madison Square Garden crowd chanting his name in the Rangers' 2-1 victory in Game 4 that kept the Los Angeles Kings from a sweep on Wednesday night.

Benoit Pouliot and Martin St. Louis each scored for the Rangers. Los Angeles leads the series 3-1 and will get its second shot to claim the Cup for the second time in three years Friday night at home.

"We wanted to close it out tonight and we weren't able to do it," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "Now we have a desperate team coming into our building."

Los Angeles hoped to become the first team since 1998 to complete a sweep in the finals. The Rangers will try to be the second team to erase a 3-0 hole in the finals and go on to win the Cup.

The Kings had that kind of comeback in the first round against San Jose.

"It's not impossible," Lundqvist said.

Twice Los Angeles put the puck on the goal line, but couldn't get it all the way across. The last came with 1:11 left when Rangers forward Derek Stepan pushed the puck out of danger in the crease after it got behind Lundqvist.

"I was just holding my breath," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. "All those guys in the crease did a great job to keep it out."

Pouliot scored 7:25 into the first period and St. Louis added a goal in the second. New York squandered multiple two-goal advantages in losing the first two games in overtime in Los Angeles.

Not this time.

Lundqvist and the Rangers continued their mastery of extending their seasons. New York is 11-2 in the past 13 games when facing elimination, and Lundqvist was in goal for all of them.

"When everything is on the line, you just have to challenge yourself the right way," Lundqvist said. "You have to be focused. One mistake and the season is over. You're definitely aware of that."

The Rangers also have won an NHL-record eight consecutive home games when facing elimination, dating to 2008, behind Lundqvist.

"We got our first one," St. Louis said, "and I'm sure that's going to help our mood."

The Kings were quick to the puck all night and pressed for the tying goal in the third. They outshot the Rangers 15-1 in the frame and 41-19 overall.

"I think we sat back a little too much in the third period, but we didn't blow the lead this time," Stepan said.

Two nights after Jonathan Quick stopped 32 shots in a 3-0 victory that put the Kings on the brink of another championship, Pouliot got a puck past him.

St. Louis then put in a rebound at the left post 6:27 into the second, giving the Rangers their fifth two-goal lead of the series. But just like in Games 1 and 2, a two-goal deficit sparked the Kings.

At the tail end of a Rangers power play, Girardi broke his stick and lost the puck to Kings captain Dustin Brown for a breakaway.

Brown made several moves in front of Lundqvist before tucking a forehand inside the right post to make it 2-1 with 11:13 left in the second.

The Kings had a chance to get even, but the Rangers killed Dominic Moore's cross-checking penalty late in the period. Jeff Carter then got behind Girardi before being stopped on a breakaway by Lundqvist.

Pouliot broke Quick's shutout streak at 123 minutes, 1 second. New York hadn't scored since Derick Brassard's second-period goal in Game 2. Pouliot's fifth goal of the playoffs came 2 seconds after Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell finished serving a high-sticking penalty.

John Moore fired a drive from the center of the blue line that Pouliot deflected high with his stick blade into the top right corner behind Quick.

The Kings almost tied it at 1-1 with 8:11 left in the first period-- seconds into a power play -- when defenseman Alec Martinez's shot got behind Lundqvist and slid along the red goal line without crossing it. Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman cleared the puck away as Carter and Marian Gaborik pressured in the crease.

Video replay clearly showed that the puck didn't go over the line.

The Garden had a different feel than the optimistic atmosphere of Game 3 when the Rangers returned home. There were no T-shirts draped over the seats, and some of the seats in prime-viewing areas were empty. But as the Rangers started to score, the crowd slowly came alive, roaring in approval.

Notes
Four NHL teams have overcome a 3-0 hole to win a series. ... Kings RW Justin Williams had a six-game assist streak snapped. ... This was the 92nd game played in this year's postseason, tying an NHL record that will be broken with Game 5. ... The Kings have led for only 40:01 in the series. ... Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo was eligible to return following a six-game suspension but was scratched.

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Ron Hextall sees benefit in Brayden Schenn's 'market deal'

Expensive at the start, cheaper at the finish.
 
That’s how Flyers general manager Ron Hextall views the four-year, $20.5 million contract he gave Brayden Schenn on Monday morning to avoid salary arbitration (see story).
 
Hextall admitted the club is overpaying up front on the deal, but believes it got a “fair” number for the final two years, when Schenn would have become an unrestricted free agent.
 
“We took a higher cap hit for the first two years and essentially a lower hit than we would have taken in years three and four if we piece meal it together,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall said he was walking into the 9 a.m. Toronto hearing with agent Don Meehan already deep in a conversation on a deal but prepared to go through with arbitration.
 
Both parties asked arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier for additional time and completed the contract by 9:45 a.m.
 
Schenn, a restricted free agent, turned down the Flyers’ two-year offer of $4.25 million for this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That averaged to $4.3 million.
 
His new contract averages $5.125 million.
 
“The benefit for us is our cap number stays flat for four years rather than having have a cap at a lower number then taking a run at him for two years, if in fact he’d sign for two years at a higher cap number,” Hextall said.
 
Hextall denied he was concerned he might get whacked in arbitration. Yet Schenn has had just one very good season in five years as a Flyer. That was last season with 26 goals and 59 points.
 
Hextall described Schenn as a player who has been “average” in his development, yet has improved in the subtle “intricacies” of the game such as finding open spots, avoiding shot blocks and coming cleanly across the blue line without turning the puck over.
 
Schenn’s true market value is closer to what New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed earlier this month: a five-year deal worth $23.25 with an AAV of $4.65 million.
 
Then again, St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal with a $5.35 million AAV. That’s above market value.
 
Meehan originally sought an AAV of $5.5 million for Schenn. In arbitration, it’s likely the Flyers would have received a two-year award in the middle of both numbers.
 
“Nothing really concerned me [about arbitration],” Hextall said. “We had a range and in the end our range was close to what Brayden’s camp felt the range was. Both sides had a range on a two-year deal.

“It’s a market deal. ... Brayden has been a good player. Top-six forwards are hard to find and there’s a premium to pay. There’s no question we paid a premium for a top-six forward who's 24 years old and essentially coming into his prime.”
 
While Hextall labeled Schenn a top-six forward, he tap-danced around whether he sees him as a “core” player for the Flyers, even though this makes him the third highest-paid forward behind Claude Giroux ($8.275 million) and Jakub Voracek ($8.25 million).
 
“What is a core [player]?” Hextall asked. “That’s arguable. ... What we do know is Brayden is a very good young player who is getting better and we hope he continues to get better.”
 
This signing leaves the Flyers with just $1.38 million in salary cap space, but with 14 forwards, the club will lose at least one by the end of training camp.
 
Thinking ahead, Jordan Weal could be sent to the Phantoms, shaving $650,000 off the cap. That’s the most likely option for the Flyers, but not their only option.
 
Scott Laughton, whose role was diminished by a strong presence from Nick Cousins, is a lesser possibility. His cap hit is $863,333.
 
Losing either of those two salaries would provide the Flyers over $2 million in cap space.
 
Schenn’s contract lacks a no-trade/no-movement clause that he would have been eligible for starting in 2018-19. He turns 25 in August.
 
The Flyers have one more arbitration to settle: defenseman Brandon Manning on Aug. 2.

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

In the end, the Flyers blinked and avoided arbitration Monday morning by overpaying Brayden Schenn with a four-year, $20.5 million contract.
 
The contract leaves the club in a precarious salary cap situation, as the Flyers have just $1.38 million in space now, according to generalfanager.com.
 
The 11th-hour settlement saw the Flyers and Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan, avoid arbitration, which was set for 9 a.m. in Toronto.
 
Meehan was seeking a deal worth $5.5 million for Schenn, who was a restricted free agent.
 
The one Schenn signed will average $5.125 million, according to a source, which still seems excessively high for the 24-year-old, who has had just one excellent season in five full years in the NHL, excluding two partial seasons with the Los Angeles Kings.
 
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59), while showing he could play wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds.
 
The Flyers and Schenn were more than $1 million apart going into Monday morning with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
 
Why general manager Ron Hextall didn’t risk the arbitration process remains unanswered. The contracts of some players in comparable situations favored a settlement less than what the Flyers agreed to.
 
The Flyers had offered Schenn a two-year deal that would have paid him $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18. That’s an average of $4.3 million.
 
New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the figure the Flyers could have gambled on getting from an arbitrator.
 
They may have been scared away from going through with the arbitration because of the five-year, $26.5 million deal fellow RFA Jaden Schwartz signed with St. Louis earlier that carried a $5.35 million hit.
 
Hextall was not immediately available for comment.
 
TSN’s Bob McKenzie first reported the financials of the contract.

Flyers and Brayden Schenn to go to arbitration

Flyers and Brayden Schenn to go to arbitration

Barring an 11th-hour settlement, the Flyers will go to arbitration on Monday against swing forward Brayden Schenn.
 
The hearing is slated for 9 a.m.
 
The two sides are more than $1 million apart with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
 
“We will probably go to arbitration,” Don Meehan, the agent for Schenn, said Sunday.
 
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall seemed to concur.
 
“I’m not overly optimistic,” he said about avoiding arbitration.
 
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto filed last summer but signed without going to a hearing.
 
The 24-year-old Schenn is the highest-profile Flyer to get this far without signing since John LeClair back in 2000. He received $7 million — the highest one-year award ever.
 
By filing on July 5, Meehan assured his client will get a contract. The Flyers’ qualified Schenn, who earned $2.75 million last season, on June 30.
 
He is a restricted free agent, who could earn close to $5 million a season on his next deal. And that’s the sticky part.
 
Sources said the Flyers offered a two-year deal that would pay Schenn $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18 (see story). That’s an AAV of $4.30 million.
 
Meehan wants $5.50 million, which is excessively high given Schenn’s seven-year career thus far.
 
At the same time, if you look at the some of the RFA signings this summer, as Meehan surely has, the comparable numbers would suggest Schenn is worth slightly more than what the Flyers have offered.
 
Two examples here: New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the correct ballpark for Schenn.
 
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59) while proving he can play the wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds on the right side.
 
Palmieri had career-highs as well in goals (30), assists (27) and points (57).
 
Problem is, the other end of the spectrum, where Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues sits.
 
The 24-year-old center recently signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal as an RFA with an AAV of $5.35 million. That’s far higher than Hextall wants to go with Schenn at this point.
 
A fractured ankle and subsequent surgery ruined Schwartz’ past season (33 games played), but Blues’ general manager Doug Armstrong looked at what Schwartz accomplished two years ago — career-highs with 28 goals, 35 assists and 63 points – and used that as a barometer for the future.
 
That deal hurts the Flyers here with Schenn.
 
Hextall’s offer suggests the Flyers want Schenn to prove he’s a $5 million player, which means show the Flyers 30 goals and 70 points this season.
 
Schenn finished second in goals to Simmonds (32) and third in points behind Giroux (67) and Simmonds (60) last season.
 
The arbitrator should be able to locate a fair medium. Expect Meehan to ask for a one-year award only.