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.

Flyers' disallowed early goal costly for team struggling to score

Flyers' disallowed early goal costly for team struggling to score

It was just pouring out of Flyers swing forward Dale Weise after Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.

A disallowed goal because of him.

A strong game in every respect from his teammates.

A realization that things never seem to change for Dave Hakstol’s club.

“We come out with a great start,” Weise said. “Get on the forecheck. The building is lively. We score what we think is a first goal which we haven’t done a lot this year.

“I’m not going to say it’s a game-changer. Whatever it was, it didn’t end the game. But that’s a pretty big part of the game.” 

Weise ended up grabbing Caps goalie Braden Holtby. He said he did so for support or he would have knocked him over since he was trying to position his stick.

Funny things is, Holtby apparently never felt the contact. When the Caps challenged Jakub Voracek’s goal on the first shift of the game, it was overturned.

“Yeah, I obviously didn’t see the interference part I just kind of followed the puck and next thing I know it was kind of out of the play so a little fortunate, a great call by our video coaches,” Holtby said.

Weise wasn’t sure what he did amounted to much because it happened before Voracek’s shot and not during the act of shooting that would have prevented Holtby from getting position.

“To be really honest with you I don’t think I really touched him that hard,” Weise said.

Goals are so hard to come by these days for the Flyers. To score one a half-minute into play in a huge rivalry game, with them so desperate for points, and then to lose the goal and the momentum early, it becomes a significant event in the overall outcome.

The Caps made the most of their chances. Just like Calgary did last week.

“Winning and losing is so thin in this league and when you’re playing a team like that who just has loads of offensive talent, you give them one, two opportunities and they score on it,” Weise said.

“For a team like us that doesn’t score very often, that’s tough. We are playing behind the eight ball every night. It’s frustrating. I’m not going to lie and say it’s not in our head when we get down because you can see the way we play.

“We’re gripping the sticks. I really liked our effort though. I thought we played hard the whole night. Full marks to our team but it’s just kind of the same story every night.”

It’s trite but the term “snake bit” has been used a lot lately in talking about the Flyers since their 10-game win streak ended.

“That’s a good way to put it,” Weise said. “Look at that one there. Touch the goalie, goal disallowed. [Ivan Provorov] hits the cross bar. We had a couple other chances in tight. Snake bitten, I don’t even know if there’s a word for how I feel right now.”

It doesn’t get any easier this weekend with the Flyers' playing in their first outdoor game in five seasons.

Another even more bitter rival: the Penguins at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field on Saturday night. Taking two from the Pens will require a supreme effort and maybe a little luck for a change. The Flyers have been real short on luck all season.

The Flyers' dressing room after games, of late, has the feel of a morgue sometimes. Over the last 10 games, the Flyers have seven losses (including overtime). In six of those losses, they have scored one goal or no goals.

“We got a pretty positive group in here,” Weise said. “We try our best to come in every day and be positive. It’s a tough situation right now. Every day we’re fighting for our playoff life so that’s in the back of everyone’s mind.

“It makes it more frustrating when you’re playing, so well. I thought we played a pretty good game tonight. That goal disallowed we come right back. They make it two nothing on the power play.

“We kept going. We played well. We had a lot of chances. Good start to the second period again. We came out strong but we just can’t seem to finish.”

Veteran defenseman Mark Streit said they're playing well, but losing doesn’t make up ground in the standings. The Flyers remain three points out of the wild card going into the weekend.

Of their remaining 22 games, 19 are against the Eastern Conference, so mathematically, they have a chance to recoup points.

“We keep telling that we’ve been playing pretty well but lose a lot of hockey games,” Streit said. “We just got to find a way ...

“We have to find a way to turn it around, to get the bounces, just to get a little bit lucky out there, and to get the ugly goal. It’s tough. It’s frustrating. But it’s also the bloody truth.” 

Flyers gearing up for first outdoor game since 2012

Flyers gearing up for first outdoor game since 2012

It’s been five years since the Flyers played an NHL game outdoors: the 2012 Winter Classic.

Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it?

Citizens Bank Park. The day after New Year’s. Sun beating down amid 40-degree temperatures and the game being moved back to 3:30 p.m. to assure better ice.

Well, it’s going to happen again Saturday night at Heinz Field as the Flyers meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL’s Stadium Series.

Dave Hakstol’s team will practice Thursday morning at Skate Zone, fly to Pittsburgh, then practice Friday at 5 p.m. on the outdoor ice.

Seven current Flyers played in the 2012 Winter Classic: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn and Michael Del Zotto, who played for the Rangers.

“It was kinda fun,” Del Zotto said this week. “Wasn’t that when [Danny] Briere had that penalty shot at the end? How much time was left? Couple seconds?”

More than that. There were 19.6 ticks left when Briere was foiled by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in a 3-2 loss, in which Mike Rupp, of all players, scored twice on Sergei Bobrovsky.

Even worse, the Flyers blew an early 2-0 lead.

“It was a ton of fun, just awesome,” Del Zotto recalled. “You try not to get too hyped up in the moment. That one, our first one and one of the first they had done. So much fun. It bring you back to your roots.

“For me, growing up, I had a backyard rink. I remember it was like yesterday being on that thing. All day every day I had a chance. But we also have to realize it’s a huge game for us. It’s a four-point game. Although it is outdoors or indoors, we need those points.”

Things could be rather wet. For starters, the temperature in Pittsburgh is supposed to hit 77 degrees on Friday. That could severely affect the Penguins skate at 2:30, the Flyers practice later and their family skate, as well.

Then on Saturday, the temperature drops into the low 40s but not before some significant rain. When the Penguins hosted the Washington Capitals in the 2011 Winter Classic, it rained but the ice didn’t melt.

“I'm sure they will do the best they can to have it ready,” Del Zotto said. “Unless it is really cold, the ice is always going to be chippy playing outdoors

“It doesn’t matter what the ice conditions are because both teams are playing with it. It’s not an advantage or disadvantage for either team. Both have to deal with it.”

In all, there are 14 Flyers, who have participated in an outdoor game either in the NHL, AHL, Europe or in college, during their lifetime.

Most of them say the hardest thing to get used to is ocular – looking through the glass and not seeing the fans. It’s like playing in an open environment all around you without people.

“It’s a little bit different, but you get used to it,” Del Zotto said. “After the anthem, you kinda get used to it. From there on, the game is going on and the crowd, you zone them out. You don’t even hear them and just focus on the game.”