As talented as the world's best hockey players are, even NHL games can come down to luck. Don't the New York Rangers know it.
Through the first three games they didn't seem to have any of it. All three Kings goals in Game 3, for example, were incredibly unfortunate as two went in off Rangers players and the third might as well have after a pass was blocked by Ryan McDonagh but went right back to LA for the goal. After the game Henrik Lundqvist bemoaned the cruelty of lady luck in the series.
She made it up to them in Game 4.
You hate to boil a game down simply to a matter of fortune because in the case of Game 4, it completely -- and wrongly -- overshadows the virtuoso performance by Lundqvist in between the pipes. But no team will ever turn away some good fortune to help them win a game and the Rangers finally got some -- a lot -- on Wednesday night to help them to a 2-1 win and avoid the Kings sweep.
Certainly it wasn't lost on Rangers coach Alain Vigneault.
"I've been in the game a long time to know that sometimes the hockey gods are there," Vigneault said. "They were there tonight."
Indeed they were. Not once but twice the Kings had shots get through Lundqvist and stop right on the goal line. Darryl Sutter played down its remarkability, saying he can recall a puck stopping like that twice in a game several times. But not many of those times were in as big of a situation as Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final with the Cup on the line.
The biggest one came with 1:11 left to go in the game. Lundqvist was beaten through the five hole and the puck was sliding right toward the goal line when the piled-up snow brought the puck to a stop where it laid for what felt like 10 seconds before Derek Stepan intelligently swept it away.
"Thank God for soft ice now and then," Vigneault said with a smile.
That snow wouldn't have been stockpiled in the crease like a kid preparing for a snowball fight if the Kings hadn't been living in the New York zone for the third period. But on this night, luck would have it that they were.
It wasn't just that and the play earlier where the puck was even closer to going in but Jeff Carter was unable to push the puck in. There was also Marian Gaborik's shot that went off the crossbar after beating Lundqvist, a few penalties that appeared to be missed (though if we're honest, that happens every game to both sides, Game 4 included) and a couple of other near misses for LA that are bound to come when you put 41 shots on net.
About the only thing that went wrong for the Rangers in the game came to their black cat of the series Dan Girardi, who had a stick break at the worst time that led to Dustin Brown's goal, the only one for LA on the night.
Whether or not the Rangers were due for some good bounces (they were), it was something they needed. Battling the Kings was already a tough enough challenge for the Rangers to take on, it was a lot harder when everything seemed to just go the Kings' way.
Fact is, the Kings are a superior team; they had more points, made it through the much tougher conference and have a Stanley Cup as recently as two seasons ago. They were clear favorites coming in for many obvious reasons. All along the Rangers were going to require two things: Henrik Lundqvist to play out of his mind and some fortune.
As you could see in Game 4, even when they had both of those completely in their favor, it was still only just enough to get by Los Angeles. They better hope there's room for lady luck on the team plane to LA because they could use her again.