And twice, Lundqvist's defense saved him for a change. With the Rangers still clinging to that one-goal lead, Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman outwrestled a flailing Carter to a puck that had slithered through Lundqvist's pads and was now moving an agonizingly slow path toward the goal line as the crowd shrieked.
But Strahlman swept it away as just a corner of the puck began to nick the red line.
Then, with just 1:11 to play, almost the exact same thing happened again: Another puck came crawling out behind Lundqvist as bodies were flying all around him in the crease. But this time it was Stepan -- who is playing with a broken jaw, remember -- who saw it, threw himself into the scrum and was smart enough to swipe the puck away rather than cover it with his glove in the crease, which would've been trouble.
"I was just trying to do whatever I could to stop it," Stepan said.
"I was by the post with [the Kings' Anze] Kopitar, and I was just holding my breath there -- the puck was kind of spinning and staying by the line," Girardi added.
"Thank god for soft ice now and then," Vigneault said with a smile.
Game 5 will be back in Los Angeles. If nothing else, the Rangers vindicated all their talk that they felt right there, neck and neck with the favored Kings in this series, even if the results didn't say so. They'd been outspoken about how they thought they'd outplayed the Kings and still lost Game 1 in overtime, and then lost Game 2 in a double-overtime killer.
And yet, as dispiriting as both those outcomes were, being shut out by Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick in their 3-0 Game 3 seemed to take even more out of them.
"I'm not going to lie to you," Rangers veteran Brad Richards said the morning after. "It's pretty much impossible to be upbeat."
But the Rangers came out Wednesday and found a way. Once the puck dropped for Game 4 it seemed as if all that was eating at them metastasized into an even higher level of, what? Determination? Anger?
That's the word.
"We have to be able to look ourselves in the mirror," Richards told the New York Post before the game.
"We don't want to end our season losing a game at home and give the Stanley Cup to their team," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal added. "It's not going to happen that way."
And they're not done yet.
"The stress level is a little high, obviously," St. Louis admitted.
"Now we have a desperate team coming into our building," the Kings' Kopitar said.
The Rangers might want to keep it that way.