Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Marty St. Louis secures Game 4 win for Rangers

NEW YORK

A little after 5 o'clock Wednesday afternoon, Rangers forward Marty St. Louis, wearing a sharp and perfectly cut charcoal-colored suit, entered the employees entrance of Madison Square Garden near the corner of 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue

And he was promptly stopped by security.

First his bag was checked. Then another security officer ordered him to go to the back of the line, behind other MSG employees waiting to get in so he could be patted down.

Finally, St. Louis politely, but firmly, told security exactly who he was.

You would have thought the scraggly 2-month-old beard — the result of hockey's great tradition of not shaving until your team is eliminated from the playoffs — would have given him away. Well, that and that he just happens to be one of the best hockey players on the planet, as well as the city's latest celebrity.

The Los Angeles Kings probably wished security had found a reason to detain St. Louis for a few hours.

Turns out, the only lethal weapon St. Louis had was waiting in the locker room, in the form of a hockey stick. And it was that stick that provided the winning goal as the Rangers kept their dim Stanley Cup hopes alive with a 2-1 victory over the Kings in Game 4.

St. Louis can keep his beard for at least a couple more days.

The Rangers, down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, still have a pulse, however faint it might be. They are trying to become only the fifth team in NHL history, and just the second in the Cup final, to win a series after being down 3-0.

For inspiration, all they need to do is look across the ice at their opponents. The Kings overcame a 3-0 deficit in the first round of these very playoffs to beat the San Jose Sharks.

The Rangers' odds are long, and a comeback is unlikely. The Kings can wrap up this series on home ice on Friday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

But for the Rangers, you can't win four in a row until you win one in a row. That's what they did Wednesday night.

How, exactly?

Start with goaltending. Isn't that where you always start at this time of year? Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant, allowing only one goal on 41 shots and making 15 saves in a heart-stopping third period that had approximately 18,000 Rangers fans chomping on their fingers.

"I said whatever happens, we're not losing this game," Lundqvist said. "We're not losing this game at home."

It also doesn't hurt to have a healthy dose of good fortune. Twice on the night — including once during an absolutely wild final two minutes that were as intense and dramatic as you'll find in any sporting event – a puck sat tantalizingly on the Rangers' goal line but refused to cross it.

"They threw everything they had at us, and our goaltender stood tall," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "He had to make some huge saves for us, and he got and we got a few bounces. We need those. Maybe the luck is changing a little bit."

The Rangers were due to have some luck after broken sticks, bad deflections and seemingly every other weird thing that could happen had gone against them in the first three games of this series, which included two losses in overtime.

And it was the former Lightning star, St. Louis, who gave the Rangers what started off as an insurance goal but that ended up paying dividends.

Former Lightning forward Benoit Pouliot had given the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first period. Midway through the second, St. Louis, as always playing a foot taller than his 5 feet 7, crashed the net and pitchforked a rebound past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to give the Rangers a two-goal lead.

It was probably St. Louis' biggest goal since his double-overtime winner in Game 6 of the 2004 Cup final that kept the Lightning's season alive.

Funny, whenever St. Louis scores, those used to watching games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum can't help but wait, and then be somewhat disappointed, when Louie, Louie doesn't blast through the public address system. At Madison Square Garden they play the same celebratory song after every Rangers goal, and this particular rendition led to another favorite tune in these parts.

New York, New York echoed through the Garden after the game, signifying a Rangers victory.

There will be no sweep, just like there hasn't been in the NHL final since 1998.

So now it's back to Los Angeles for Game 5. The Kings are still the favorite. The heavy favorite, in fact. But no longer do the Rangers have to come back from the near-impossible 3-0 deficit. It's now a more manageable 3-1 deficit, one they came back from in these playoffs against the Penguins in the second round.

They have a chance because of Lundqvist and a whole lot of luck and a little guy who still breaks the hearts of Lightning fans whenever they think about him.

St. Louis' controversial season is still going. He will be there Friday night in Los Angeles.

Assuming security lets him in the building.

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