In Game 3, the Los Angeles Kings were doubled up in shots by the New York Rangers and got some great bounces. In Game 4, the hockey gods swatted them back to reality, despite the fact they outshot the Blueshirts 41-19.
The good news for the Kings is that they mostly dominated the contest and were only foiled by a superhuman performance by Henrik Lundqvist. The bad news is that the Kings dominated the Rangers and still came out on the losing end of a 2-1 decision.
Were there small improvements that could be made? Most definitely. None of the four penalties taken by Los Angeles were necessary, while the opening 10 minutes saw the Kings look uncharacteristically jumpy - they still put good pressure on New York for stretches, but pucks were bouncing over sticks and passes were getting intercepted at a greater rate than usual. Ryan McDonagh outplayed Drew Doughty.
“It took us a little bit to get into again for whatever reason and we just have to turn our focus to Friday now," said center Mike Richards. “We can still do some better things for a more consistent period of time. We'll watch some video, correct a couple things and put our best foot forward."
New York fans felt like their team should have won one, if not both of the first two games of the series, so there was great vindication in Madison Square Garden when Benoit Pouliot finally cracked Jonathan Quick's armor on New York ice.
“We knew they were going to come with a big push," said left winger Tanner Pearson. "They got that power play goal, got the crowd into it; we battled back but we just couldn't get that second one.”
Incredibly, the Kings saw two pucks dangle precipitously on the goal line behind Lundqvist, once in the first period and once in the third. Naturally either of those plays could have swung the momentum and outcome wildly, but Richards wasn't about to dwell on the work of a few rogue layers of snow in Lundqvist's crease.
“He made the save," he said. "Whether it stays out two inches from the line or stays out in his equipment, it's still not a goal.”
The Kings did almost everything right, but still have at least one more game to play now. The squad looked very loose before the contest and naturally much less upbeat afterward. Los Angeles is a battle-hardened squad and almost every player in the lineup won the Cup in 2012. Of course, that series began with a 3-0 advantage over New Jersey but took six games to finish.
For all their California cool, the Kings would be best served to squash the resurgent Rangers and prevent this series from coming back to the East Coast. Because as good as the Kings have been, the hockey gods can work in mysterious ways.