Stanley Cup Final: Kings Win in Double OT, Lead Series 2-0

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.

Sharks Lose to Kings 4-1, Hertl Injured

By Mary Walsh

LOS ANGELES- It appears that the Visitor’s Curse still haunts the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center. The mischievous spirit might even be getting more violent. Thursday night, the Sharks lost to the Kings by a score of 4-1. They also lost star forward and rookie Tomas Hertl to a knee-on-knee hit from LA’s Dustin Brown. How long the team will be without Hertl is not yet clear.

The fact that the Kings won was not at all out of the ordinary for these teams, the home team has won going back 15 games now. What was unusual was the score: 4-1. It has been some time since a game between these two ended with such a lopsided result. Patrick Marleau, playing his 1200th NHL game, scored the only Sharks goal.

McLellan made a couple of lineup changes for Thursday’s game, including moving Martin Havlat to the second line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. He put Scott Hannan back in, paired with Brad Stuart. He also put Tyler Kennedy in, on the fourth line with Mike Brown and Andrew Desjardins.

The first penalty of the game went to the Kings at 3:25, to Drew Doughty for holding. The Sharks had several good chances, a couple that looked like dead certainties (one for Couture, another for Irwin) but they missed. The Kings had a good short-handed chance late in the penalty but Niemi gloved it.

The Sharks lost a lot of races to the Kings in the first period. Dump-ins were about as effective as turnovers. As a result, the Sharks were outshot through most of the period, though by the end of it they were only behind 13-11.

With a minute left in the period, the Kings’ Dustin Brown collided with Tomas Hertl just inside the Sharks’ zone. The knee-on-knee hit earned him a five minute major. Hertl left the ice hobbling. During the ensuing delayed penalty, Brent Burns earned a penalty for interference. The teams finished the period playing 4-on-4. James Sheppard was tapped to fill in for Tomas Hertl on the Thornton line.

The second period started with the teams still at 4-on-4, and when Burns’ penalty expired the Sharks still had over 2:30 left on the man advantage. The Sharks finally found a way to sustain pressure, but two good chances in close and an Irwin shot off the post were all the Sharks had to show for the power play.

The Kings’ goaltender Martin Jones was very good, but the Sharks were unable to take advantage of the second chances they did create. As McLellan said before the game, how well Jones has played was not the Sharks’ biggest challenge:

I think for our group it’s more about preparing to face six players rather than one goaltender. The five others that are on the ice do a tremendous job for them defensively and they position themselves well around the net, it allows the goaltender to feel comfortable and make a lot of saves. They’ve been successful playing that way. It’s not just the guy wearing the pads, it’s the other five that you’ve got to beat as well.

The first goal of the game came at 5:26 of the second, scored from above the left circle by the Kings’ Alec Martinez, with an assist to Tyler Toffoli. The goal came from a shot made possible when the Sharks failed to clear the puck or control it despite several tries. At least three, maybe four Sharks touched it in the defensive zone before Martinez got it.

Joe Thornton was called for holding against Anze Kopitar at 9:03. Despite starting in their own zone, the Sharks’ penalty killers (including Mike Brown now) cleared the puck five times and even got a couple of short-handed shots off. As soon as the power play expired, however, Slava Voynov made a clean pass from the Kings’ zone, right onto Tyler Toffoli’s stick at the Sharks’ blue line. He skated in and put a shot in the far corner to give the Kings a 2-0 lead.

An impressive series of saves by Martin Jones was punctuated by three inexplicably failed shots from Sharks Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels. Wingels even tried from both sides of the net, and he almost poked it in behind Jones but the rookie goaltender twisted around and stopped it with his glove.

During the second period, the teams were even in shots at ten, with total shots being 23-20 for the Kings. Of course, the 2-0 score was more significant, especially since the Kings had not lost when leading after the second since March 30.

Instead of challenging that pattern, the Sharks gave up another goal 36 seconds into the third period. Jeff Carter was given far too much time in the Sharks’ zone, and an ill-advised slide to block a shot left Niemi alone with one of the better shots in the league. Assists went to Dwight King and Robyn Regehr.

The Sharks drew another penalty when Jake Muzzin pushed Martin Havlat into the boards from behind. From camera distance, Havlat didn’t appear injured but he was certainly shoved from behind. He was out playing a shift later on the second power play unit.

The Kings killed the penalty off, and then they scored again. This time it was Dwight King’s goal, with the assists going to Carter and Regehr.

The Sharks got another chance on the power play when Mike Richards went to the box for high-sticking at 6:37. As soon as the penalty expired, the Kings went the other way 3 on 2, but didn’t score.

With just over two minutes left in the game, San Jose’s second line made it in to the Kings’ zone and Marleau scored his 16th of the season. A lone assist went to Martin Havlat.

The final shot count was preposterously even at 32 for each team. The Sharks’ power play went 0-4, their penalty kill was 1-0.

The Sharks play their next game at home on Saturday against the Dallas Stars. Puck drop at 7:30 pm.