By Mary Walsh
The Los Angeles Kings took a 2-0 series lead over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday. They took their first lead of the game and won more than ten minutes in to double overtime. A Willie Mitchell shot, the game winner was redirected by Dustin Brown.
It was Mitchell’s second point of the game. After the game he said:
I don’t know, we’ve been digging ourselves holes here lately, but our resiliency… We find a way to dig deep and that’s something you just can’t re-create.
The Kings seem to be re-creating it with some proficiency. They have a thing for allowing two goals early and coming back to win anyway. Saturday, they had to recover from three two-goal deficits, twice cutting the deficit to one and finally tying the game in the third period at 4-4.
This is the first time in Stanley Cup history that the first two games of the Final have gone to overtime three seasons in a row.
For their part, the Rangers played valiantly, pushing the Kings back again and again, but they never could stretch the lead past two goals, or hold any of their leads for long enough. Rick Nash, who needs to score, gave it a good shot. Eight shots, actually, leading the Rangers in shots on goal.
Jonathan Quick made 33 saves for the win, Henrik Lundqvist made 39 saves for the Rangers.
The first period was rough and tumble. Kings forward Jeff Carter got tangled up in a hip check from Ryan McDonagh, which sent him briefly to the Kings’ dressing room. As soon as Carter got back to the bench, Jarret Stoll put Rangers’ forward Dan Girardi into the boards and Girardi left the game for a bit with a right hand injury. He was not gone for long. That all happened in the first half of the period.
The Rangers had the first power play of the game 7:58 in, when Marion Gaborik was called for tripping. The Rangers started very well and got credit for a couple of shots, but could not convert against the aggressive Kings penalty killers. Those penalty killers also found a short-handed chance, as is their habit.
It was just a few seconds after the penalty expired that the Rangers took advantage of a turnover by the Kings’ Justin Williams. Dominic Moore sent the puck up to Ryan McDonagh at the point. He wasted no time and fired the puck in before Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick knew what was coming.
With just under five minutes left in the period, McDonagh went to the box for cross checking Kings captain Dustin Brown. The Kings only managed one shot during the power play. Despite a good chance after the penalty expired (thwarted by a snappy glove save from Lundqvist), the Kings found themselves in another two goal hole before the period ended.
The second goal came from a scramble in the Kings’ end. Derick Brassard got the puck behind the net, sent it up to McDonagh, whose shot went off of Quick to Mats Zuccarello. He was waiting at the corner of the net, and gently tapped it in.
Unlike the last game, the Kings did not get one back before the period ended. The shots after the first were almost even at 10-9 for New York.
The Kings wasted no time with their comeback in the second. At 1:46, the Kings took advantage of a turnover from Brad Richards. Dwight King sent the puck to the slot where Justin Williams was ready to shoot and go to the net, and then pick up his own rebound. He controlled the rebound and passed it back to Jarret Stoll, who found Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist out of position and cut the Rangers’ lead in half.
Just past the ten minute mark of the second, the Kings took a too many men penalty. The Kings did a good job of pushing the Rangers out of their zone, but the Rangers made good use of a fast entry, a two on one of Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan. Stepan set up St. Louis for a nice shot from the circle to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
The Kings got another power play when Mats Zuccarello swept Dustin Brown’s leg out from under him. It took them a while to get set up but Willie Mitchell made good use of traffic in front of Lundqvist to score from the blue line.
The Rangers only let that stand for 11 seconds. A faceoff win and a slick forecheck caused havoc in the Kings’ zone. Quick went to move the puck then tried to leave it for defenseman Willie Mitchell. When the puck bounced over Mitchell’s stick, Mats Zuccarello was right behind him to pounce on it. Zuccarello had barely moved the puck ahead of the goal line when Brassard snapped it in to restore the two goal lead.
It was the quickest two goals in a Stanley Cup Final in 67 years.
The period ended with the shots slightly favoring the Rangers 22-20.
The Kings scored early in the third period, a goal that had Lundqvist verbalizing his objections. Dwight King fell on the Rangers’ goalie just before the puck went in. It could be argued that he was pushed over by the Rangers’ defenseman, but he was not pushed in to Lundqvist, and was in fact in the blue paint behind Lundqvist and McDonagh before he fell.
In any case, King got the goal with assists to Matt Greene and Justin Williams.
The next few minutes were marked by oddly symmetrical back and forth play. In the seventh minute of the period, the Kings finally held the zone for long enough to put some pressure on the Rangers. Even after a timeout, the Rangers had trouble getting in to the Kings’ zone. A failed clear at the Rangers’ blue line, followed by McDonagh losing his footing near the net, and the Kings had the Rangers outnumbered in front of their net. Marian Gaborik tied the game with his 13th goal of the playoffs.
The Kings did not score in the first two minutes of the next period. On the contrary, the Rangers had the Kings trapped in their own zone five minutes in, forcing the Kings to use their timeout after an icing. The game picked up again after that with both sides trading chances.
One second over the half way mark, Dominic Moore was called for catching Jeff Carter in the face with his stick. The high sticking penalty had the potential to be a heartbreaker. Instead, the Rangers held the Kings off until Rick Nash could sell a convincing interference penalty that put Justin Williams in the box and evened things up for about 30 seconds.
With their own man advantage, the Rangers had no better luck, on that power play or the next that came when Jeff Carter ran into Lundqvist behind the net. There was some concern about Lundqvist’s fitness to continue but he stayed in and seemed no worse for wear.
The first OT period ended without any resolution to the game. The second OT period lasted for ten minutes and was penalty-free. Anze Kopitar won a defensive zone faceoff for the Kings, Slava Voynov took the puck out. Kopitar controlled the puck near the Rangers’ faceoff circle, then sent the puck up to Willie Mitchell at the point. Mitchell’s shot went in between Gaborik and Brown, allowing Brown to tip it past Lundqvist.
The teams meet again in New York, on Monday at 5:00 pm PT.