NEW YORK — Keep the champagne on ice, Los Angeles.
The New York Rangers are alive.
Trailing in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final three games to none, the Rangers prevented the Kings from celebrating a sweep at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night with a gutsy effort, as Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves in a 2-1 win that forced a Game 5 in Staples Center on Friday night.
It was the eighth straight time that the Rangers had won an elimination game, including five times this season, but Lundqvist had to rise to the occasion to make it happen.
Benoit Pouliot and Martin St. Louis had given the Blueshirts a 2-0 lead — the same as they had in Games 1 and 2 on the road when they lost in overtime — before Kings captain Dustin Brown scored on a breakaway in the second.
The Kings stormed the Rangers’ net from the opening faceoff of the third period. In the first 3:42, Anze Kopitar fired wide, Ryan McDonagh blocked Justin Williams’ try and Jarret Stoll’s tip went wide before Lundqvist stopped Tanner Pearson and Brown. Lund qvist then denied 40-footers from Williams and Pearson again.
With 10:05 left, Lundqvist stopped Tyler Toffoli’s quick shot through traffic. The Kings outshot the Rangers 15-1 in the third. After Brown’s goal, the Kings had 19 shots, the Rangers just two.
Jonathan Quick was pulled after and Brian Boyle ice-length shot slid wide right of the empty net seconds later.
The Rangers were fortunate that it didn’t.
In order to avoid a sweep — the first in the Final since 1998 — and force the Game 5, the Rangers would need to find ways to score on Quick, who whitewashed them with 32 saves on Monday here.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault juggled his top two lines, dropping center Brad Richards to left wing on the fourth line. On the power play, Derek Stepan took Richards’ spot on the point, while the veteran moved deeper in the rotation.
Carl Hagelin joined Stepan and Rick Nash; Chris Kreider was shifted to left wing on the line with St. Louis and Dom Moore, who was elevated from the fourth line. Boyle centered Richards and Derek Dorsett. The only line that stayed intact was Pouliot-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello.
Pouliot gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with his second of the series when he deflected John Moore’s slapper from the blue line under the crossbar at 7:25, just two seconds after a power play ended. Willie Mitchell was sent off for a questionable high-sticking on Dorsett. The goal snapped Quick’s shutout streak at 123:01.
The Blueshirts used their bodies on the wall to stymie some rushes in the first. Anton Stralman dumped Drew Doughty with a hip check and Ryan McDonagh upended Justin Williams.
In the biggest defensive play, with 8:10 left in the first and Zuccarello in the box for shooting the puck over the glass, Stralman saved the tying goal, scooping the puck off the goal line after Jeff Carter just missed poking it in. Stralman had first inhibited Carter’s stick.
The Kings kept pressing though, and by the end of the period the had outshot the Rangers 11-8 and won 20 of 24 faceoffs.
The pairing of Kreider and St. Louis paid off in the second. Stepan took a shot, Kreider got a stick on it in front and the puck came to St. Louis at the left post for a tap-in and he jammed it at 6:27.
But as another power play was ending, Dan Girardi’s blade snapped at the L.A. blue line and Dustin Brown was off on a breakaway with John Moore in pursuit. Brown deked backhand to forehand and beat Lundqvist at 8:46 to trim the Blueshirts’ lead to 2-1.