2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition Results

Photo credit: @ScoutingTheRefs

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The 2019 NHL All Star Skills Competition featured six events in front of a big crowd at SAP Center Friday evening. In the first event, the Fastest Skater, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid won for the third time in a row, this time with a time of 13.378. In second place, Buffalo’s Jack Eichel completed the course in 13.582, with the Islanders’ Matthew Barzal third at 13.778. The first skater in the competition was Kendall Coyne Schofield of the US Women’s National Team. Her time was 14.346.

The second event was demonstrated by Rebecca Johnston of the Canadian Women’s team. The Puck Control race started with a stick handling test, followed by a puck carrying exercise though cones. The third test was to put the puck through three variable gates. One of three gates in each pillar would light up as the skater finished the preceding test. At the end, they had to put the puck in a regular net. Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau took the prize with a time of 27.045. Chicago’s Patrick Kane skated first but came in second with a time of 28.611. Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux finished third with a time of 30.270.

In the Save Streak competition, each goaltender would face a shot from each skater on an opposing team, with the order of go to repeat if the goalie stopped a shot by a Divisional Captain. If he did not stop that shot, his turn was up. Henrik Lundqvist went last and won with 12 saves against the Atlantic Division.

Pekka Rinne was in the net first, making two saves in a row but no longer streak than that against the Pacific Division. Andrei Vasilevsky made 8 saves before Seth Jones scored from the Metro Division. John Gibson made 3 saves against the Central Division. Devan Dubnyk made 7 saves against the Pacific Division. Braden Holtby defended against the Atlantic Division but did not make more than 2 saves in a row. Jimmy Howard made 2 saves against the Metropolitan Division. Marc-Andre Fleury got the extra shots by making a save on the Central Dvivision captain, but he let in the very next shot and did not reach the eight-save threshold set by Vasilevsky.

Briana Decker of the USA Women’s National Team demonstrated the Premier Passer race. Contestants had to hit the sticks of three cutout skaters with a pass, then put pucks in four mini nets with a saucer pass over a low barrier. Finally, the skater had to hit five of six targets which would light up, signalling him to shoot at that one. If he did not hit the target before the light changed, it did not count. Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl won it with a time of 1:09.088. The second best time was 1:18.530 from Carolina’s Sebastian Aho, and the third best was St. Louis’s Ryan O’Reilly with 1:25.897.

Washington’s John Carlson won the Hardest Shot contest with a 102.8 mph shot. San Jose’s Brent Burns came next with a 100.6 mph shot, while Columbus’s Seth Jones was third with a 99 mph shot. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos was the only other shooter and his best was 96.2 mph. San Jose’s Sharky won the mascot hardest shot with 85.2 mph.

The Final Event was Accuracy Shooting. Renata Fast from the Canadian Women’s National Team demonstrated the new setup. Instead of plates that break, the targets were LED lit and they only stayed lit for 3 seconds before going dark. Of course, they had to be hit while lit or it did not count. The standing record for five-target accuracy shooting is 11.1. Boston’s David Pastrnak won it this year with a time of 11:309. Kris Letang and Drew Doughty came in second and third with times of 12.693 and 13.591 respectively. San Jose’s Joe Pavelski finished with a respectable 14.423.

The NHL All-Star Game will start at 5:00 PM PT Saturday.

Sharks Lose 3-2 in Overtime to Rangers

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks lost 3-2 in overtime to the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Despite having the lead for most of the game, Sharks’ goals from Marcus Sorensen and Joonas Donskoi were not enough for the win.

The Rangers got goals from Brett Howden, Brendan Smith and Brady Skjei. Sharks goalie Aaron Dell made 24 saves, while Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 41 saves for New York’s first win of the season.

With this overtime loss, the Sharks are 2-1-1 on this road trip.

After the game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said:

We like to be a detailed team, we don’t like to give up a lot of chances, but we generated a lot of chances, you know, throughout the night. And we’ll have to really look at it to see how it is. It felt like we had the puck a lot, it felt like we had a lot of grade as. Just got to stick some in the net, and I’ll take part of the blame on that. I got some looks that just gotta go.

The first period started out well, with the Sharks dominating play right out of the gate. Less than five minutes in, Evander Kane was called for closing his hand over the puck as he stopped it from going into the bench. During the penalty kill, Sorensen made a beautiful play, stick-handing twice around Brady Skjei before scoring with a wrist shot into the far corner. Assists went to Timo Meier and Brent Burns.

The Rangers tied it in the final five minutes of the first. Brett Howden got the puck to Mats Zuccarello from behind the net, then got to the front of the net. Zuccarello took the shot, but Dell kept that out. Now close to the blue paint, bumped it back between his legs and under Dell. Assists went to Zuccarello and Kreider.

The Sharks challenged the play as an off side. After a lengthy review, the officials upheld the goal. While the puck carrier’s skates did cross the line before the puck did, he had touched it before crossing the line and appeared to be in control of it. There was one skater on the other side of the ice that the Sharks felt had crossed the line before the puck, but the officials could not verify that he had done so.

The Sharks outshot the Rangers 17-6 during the first, and each team killed two of two penalties.

The Sharks took the lead back with a goal from Joonas Donskoi at 4:59 of the second period. Burns cleared the puck out of the Sharks zone with a backhand off the boards. Antti Suomela picked it up in the neutral zone and took off with Donskoi and Sorensen three-on-one. Suomela was patient before making the pass to Donskoi, who put the puck in with a last moment shot just above the goal line. Assists went to Suomela and Burns.

That was the only goal of the second period. There were no penalties called and the shot count was slightly less lopsided at 16-9 Sharks.

Kane drew an interference penalty from Tony DeAngelo at 5:30 of the third period. The Sharks power play started in the offensive zone with Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Logan Couture. They had one shot blocked, two shots saved and one missed shot. When Lundqvist stopped the puck, the second unit came out for almost a minute, including Vlasic, Kane, Meier, Donskoi and Labanc. They could not hold the zone or get any shots. At the very end of their shift, trouble in the neutral zone resulted in a breakaway by Vinni Lettieri. Dell stopped his shot with a flourish.

Moments later, Hertl left the ice and went to the dressing room, leaving his helmet and gloves behind on the ice. He appeared to have an abrasion below his left eye.

The Rangers stayed neck and neck with the Sharks in terms of shots for the rest of the period. The shots were tied at 10-10 when the Rangers tied the game at 17:21. Pavel Buchnevich made a backhand pass from the right goal post to Brendan Smith who had three Sharks between him and the net. He took the shot just as he fell. Assists went to Buchnevich and Jesper Fast.

Hertl returned to the ice in the final frantic minutes, but Donskoi was hobbled by a Karlsson shot in the final minute. The Rangers held the zone for most of that minute, keeping the Sharks on their heels.

The Sharks started overtime with Karlsson, Hertl and Couture on the ice. Hertl won the faceoff to give the Sharks’ possession. That was the only Sharks line used in overtime. A passed from Karlsson to Hertl failed and 76 took the puck. He carried it all the way down and then scored with a shot over a prone Couture.

The Sharks will finish up the road trip against the Devils on Sunday at 10:00 am PT.

Sharks Sink Rangers 4-1

By Mary Walsh

AP photo: San Jose Sharks Joe Pavelski is congratulated by Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl after scoring third period goal vs. the NY Rangers on Saturday afternoon

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks overwhelmed the New York Rangers in a 4-1 win Saturday. It has been a while since the Sharks passed the 50 shot mark in a game, but they did so Saturday. They pummeled Henrik Lundqvist with 47 before he left the game, and Antti Ranta faced five more, for a total of 52 shots. At the other end, Martin Jones faced 25 shots and stopped 24. Two San Jose goals were scored by Joel Ward, one by Joe Thornton and another by Joe Pavelski. Tomas Hertl picked up three assists in the game, while Patrick Marleau picked up an assist in his 1400th career NHL game. The lone Rangers goal was scored by Dan Boyle.

Three of the Sharks goals came in the third period, after a hard-fought two periods. After the game, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said: “I liked our game through 40 minutes. I thought that if we stuck with it, kept pushing and kept pushing, eventually we would find a crack and I think that’s what happened.”

Missing from the Sharks lineup were Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Matt Nieto, both injured in Thursday’s game against Arizona. Neither injury is expected to be long-term and the team anticipates they will both be back in time for playoffs. Dylan DeMelo was in for Vlasic, while Tommy Wingels returned from injury to fill out the forward lines. He was slotted in on the fourth line, while Chris Tierney moved up to play with Marleau and Ward. That was where Tierney had finished Thursday’s game as well.

After the game, Tommy Wingels talked about how the team should be able to handle the absence of key players:

Guys earn each other’s confidence. When you can show your linemates that you can contribute, you can show your teammates that you can be relied on, the depth shines. To go far in this league you need guys, you need a full team of guys who can do that. I think in this last stretch here, these past 25 games, we’ve really shown each other that any guy can stand up at any moment and that’s what you need.

3:16 into the first period, the Sharks were on the penalty kill. Just back from injury, Tommy Wingels was called for closing his hand on the puck. The Sharks killed the penalty off and followed up with a fairly amazing shift in the Rangers’ zone, complete with last-ditch keep-ins, falling pass interceptions and a couple of good shots. The team looked ready to play.

The Rangers responded with some strong shifts in the Sharks’ zone and the first period went back and forth that way without a goal. At the first intermission, the Sharks held slight leads in faceoffs and shots, and had half as many giveaways as the Rangers. The Rangers had blocked nine shots to the Sharks’ three.

Wingels went to the box to start the second period as well, taking Tanner Glass with him at 2:14. Wingels went for tripping Mats Zuccarello, Glass for roughing Wingels. No harm was done, but no benefit gained either as the four on four elapsed with the game still scoreless. The Sharks had their first power play at 6:01 of the second, for too many men on the ice. J.T. Miller did the time for the Rangers.

The Sharks power play was a bit unsteady at first, but found traction with the second unit. With 11 seconds left, Joonas Donskoi controlled the puck as it came around behind the Rangers net, and sent a quick reverse pass to Joel Ward in the slot. He wasted no time taking the shot for his 19th of the season. Assists went to Donskoi and Hertl.

Dan Boyle tied the game with 2:28 left in the second. Derrick Brassard and Dan Boyle surprised the Sharks with a two on one. Brenden Dillon went down to block Brassard’s pass to Boyle, but the puck got around him. It looked like Jones would stay with Boyle and stop the shot but Boyle waited him out and put the puck in with a nifty backhand. Assists went to Brassard and Marc Staal.

At the end of the second, the Sharks held a 37-18 shot lead.

Five seconds into the third, Marc Staal went to the box for delay of game. The Sharks power play started more quickly this time around but did not score. The Sharks had a series of good chances almost five minutes in, with as many as three tries in fewer seconds but Lundqvist stopped all of them.

Just past the five minute mark, though, the Sharks took the lead back. Tomas Hertl carried the puck over the line and fought his way around the Rangers defense. He carried the puck through a tight turn and to the front of the blue paint. Lundqvist stopped his shot but as Hertl was being taken down to the side of the net, Joe Thornton arrived in front to pick up the rebound and put it away. Assists went to Hertl and Joe Pavelski.

1:49 later, Marleau, Ward and Tierney skated in three on two. Instead of passing, Ward scored his 20th with a shot from the left circle. Assists went to Marleau and Paul Martin. The floodgates were open. Joe Pavelski scored his 33rd of the season in a two on none breakaway at 9:05. Tomas Hertl picked his third assist of the game, and Antti Ranta came in to relieve Lundqvist in goal. At that time, the Sharks held a shot lead of 47-21.

The Sharks took another penalty at 10:32, but not to Wingels. This time it was Dainius Zubrus, for tripping Ryan McDonagh. The Sharks killed the penalty handily, throwing in a couple of short-handed chances to boot. The Rangers looked deflated after that. They managed few shots, and took one more penalty with 1:07 left in the game. The penalty was to Dominic Moore, for boarding Dylan DeMelo. The Sharks made a modest effort to do something with the power play, but Paul Martin ended by holding the puck behind the Sharks net for the last several seconds of the game. It was a reasonable choice.

The Sharks next play on at 7:00 PT Sunday at SAP against the Arizona Coyotes.

Better Effort Not Enough As Sharks Lose 3-1 to Rangers

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– The New York Rangers defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Saturday. New York goals were scored by Martin St. Louis and Chris Kreider in the first period, and Rick Nash in the third. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 30 of 31 shots for the win. The win completed a sweep of the California NHL teams, as the Rangers beat the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings in back to back games earlier this week.

Joe Thornton returned to the Sharks lineup Saturday in time to face his old teammate Dan Boyle.It was Boyle’s first time playing against the Sharks as a Ranger, since he was out with an injury when the teams first met this season. In Saturday’s game, Boyle had one shot on goal for the Rangers, one hit and one blocked shot in 18:58 of playing time.

Thornton talked about the Sharks loss afterwards: “It was a competitive game, it really was. It felt like we got our chances, they got their chances but our compete level was high, it was a good hockey game.”

If that sounds maddeningly sensible and insufficiently agitated for someone who just lost 3-1 at home, it isn’t. To my eye, the Sharks showed more poise, better effort and energy than they have in a couple of games. All they seemed to lack is confidence. Despite winning two of their last four games, they have had some truly stunning losses. Games like that take time to recover from.

Joe Thornton thought that the way the Sharks played Saturday was a good sign, and Todd McLellan said much the same thing:

The moral victory is the commitment level and the effort went way up. I twas evident. I thought that if we apply ourselves that way most nights, we’ll give ourselves at least an opportunity to win.

Melker Karlsson scored the Sharks’ only goal, extending his scoring streak to five games. It was a little more memorable for the Swedish rookie because he had to beat Henrik Lundqvist to score that goal: “It’s huge. I mean, he’s a big player in Sweden and I was looking forward to this game. And I scored today so it’s, yeah it’s unreal.”

Make no mistake, Karlsson had his priorities in order about the loss. Asked if scoring against Lundqvist took the sting out of losing, he answered: “I don’t know, I want to win. It sucks to lose. So…”

The Rangers took the lead after the ten minute mark had passed, after being outplayed in most regards by the Sharks. Martin St Louis scored off the faceoff, it was his team’s second shot of the game. Assists went to Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan.

Chris Kreider took an interference penalty at 11:34 of the period. The Sharks’ power play was effective at setting up chances but unable to finish them.

With just under five minutes left in the period, Chris Kreider extended the Rangers’ lead, again right off the faceoff.  The Rangers’ push back was in full swing. Assists went to Dan Girardi and Derek Stepan.

Despite dominating in the faceoff circle (winning 74%) and earning good chances in the offensive zone, the Sharks’ finished the period down by two goals and just one shot ahead of the Rangers.

The second period was going very like the first one, with the Sharks starting well and the Rangers coming back late. The big difference was that the Sharks had given up no more goals. With 3:29 left in the period, Matt Tennyson was called for high-sticking and received a four minute penalty. Almost a minute into that, the Sharks drew a penalty to even things out. Martin St Louis went to the box for interference against Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

With no scoring in the second, the teams finished the second period even in shots on goal. The Sharks penalty kill had not given up any shots to the Rangers’ power play so far.

The Sharks completed the penalty kill to start the third period, but the Rangers did not go away. At 4:24 of the third, a Mats Zuccarello shot ended up in Niemi’s glove but the shot was reviewed at length. That the puck crossed the line, in or out of Niemi’s glove, was probable, but Toronto took their time determining that they could not overturn the call. After the long rest and a bit of good luck, the Sharks had every reason to get back in the game.

That opportunity was amplified with a penalty to Dominic Moore for interference at 5:31. The Sharks power play started inauspiciously with a won faceoff, a stray pass that left the zone, followed by a short handed chance for the Rangers. All of that transpired in the first ten seconds of the power play. The Sharks did get set up after that. After a tentative shot or two, the Sharks dug in. A keep in from Matt Tennyson turned into a pass to James Sheppard along the boards. Sheppard and Karlsson converged on the net and Karlsson scored to cut the lead in half.

Logan Couture was called for holding at 11:58. The Rangers again got credit for no shots on their power play, but the Sharks had one short handed shot that ended with Vlasic and St Louis tangled up in Lundqvist’s net.

In the final three minutes, the Rangers used their time out after a very good shift from the Sharks. The Sharks did not get their mojo back after the time out, and after the Sharks pulled Niemi for the extra skater, Rick Nash was able to ellude the Sharks defense to score the game-clincher.

Patrick Marleau, James Sheppard, Tye McGinn and Logan Couture each had four shots on goal, no Shark had more. Tommy Wingels had the most hits with three. Marc-Edouard Vlasic led the team in ice time with 25:18, while Justin Braun blocked five shots. Antti Niemi made 29 saves on 31 shots.

Rick Nash led New York in shots on goal with seven. Dan Girardi and Jesper Fast each had four hits, no Ranger had more. Ryan McDonagh led the team in ice time with 23:54.

The Sharks next play in Arizona against the Coyotes, at 6:00 PT on Tuesday the 13th.

Los Angeles Kings Win Stanley Cup Again

By Mary Walsh

The Los Angeles Kings have won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons. The game winner was scored in double overtime by the Kings’ fourth line. Alec Martinez actually scored it, but he gave his linemates credit:

I just saw there was a loose puck in my own end, I just tried to get it in a forward’s hands. And I think Toffoli had a great shot, far pad, and fortunately the rebound came to me and I was able to put it in. It was a great play by them, I was just the benefactor.

It was Martinez’ second overtime game winner in these playoffs. The first was in the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. This time, it was 15 minutes into a second overtime period, to win the Stanley Cup. He talked about the team’s mindset after they fell behind at the end of the second period on a short-handed goal by Brian Boyle:

I mean, the New York Rangers are a hell of a hockey club and we knew that this was going to be a tough series. There’s a lot of guys who’ve been around, a couple years ago, we know the fourth one’s definitely the hardest one to get, So that’s what we were talking about in the locker room, we just had to dig deep and just keep grinding away. We believed we were going to win this game.

The Conn Smythe trophy was awarded to Justin Williams. To many, Williams was flying under the radar when these playoffs started. As the leading scorer in the Final and a now three-time Stanley Cup winner, it is hard to believe he was very far under the radar. In any case, he is on everyone’s screen now.

The Kings scored before the Rangers even had a shot on goal. That would not be very unusual except that it wasn’t a goal in the first two minutes. Over six minutes had gone by. The goal came after a scramble in front of the Rangers’ net, after several tries. The successful shot was taken by Justin Williams. Assists went to Dwight King and Jarret Stoll.

Martin St. Louis took the Rangers’ first shot of the game, just shy of eight minutes in. For his trouble, Dustin Brown hauled St. Louis down and gave the Rangers a power play. The Rangers started pretty strong and got a few shots in, but the power play fizzled in the last 30 seconds or so, with the Kings getting a step on them before they could get set up.

It took the Rangers well over 20 minutes to tie the game. The goal came on a power play earned by Mats Zuccarello, who took a stick to the face from Dwight King. It started out badly, with a misfired pass from McDonagh to Richards, and then another pass to the other team, this time from Martin St. Louis. After almost a minute wasted, the Rangers were finally set up, with Brad Richards at the point.

One of the knocks on Richards has been that he overstays on the power play. This time was one of those extended stays, a minute and 29 seconds had elapsed and he had started it. Of course, no one else had gone off either so perhaps the criticisms are unfairly specific.

Ryan McDonagh shot a puck in from the wall, and it went neatly to Kris Kreider’s on the far side of the blue paint. It went by Quick and Kings defenseman Greene and landed right on Chris Kreider’s stick. Kreider got the goal, McDonagh the primary assist and the secondary assist went to Brad Richards.

Before the Rangers were done, they took the lead to end the second period. They set themselves up by taking a penalty and playing short handed. Dominic Moore got called for a subtle stick infraction. The Kings had a good chance early in that power play but the Rangers kept them to the outside and only allowed one shot on goal.

In the final three seconds of the penalty, Brian Boyle and Carl Hagelin went the other way when Slava Voynov could not hold the puck in. After Hagelin corralled the puck and kept it away from Voynov near the Kings’ blue line, he passed it in Boyle’s direction. Boyle had to hustle and reach for it but he got it before Drew Doughty could. Boyle skated around Doughty in the slot and shot from a wide angle, skating left and shooting at the top right corner. Quick slid just a little too far to the right.

The Rangers started the third period pretty well but nearing the midpoint, the Kings had the Rangers pinned in their zone and scrambling. Lundqvist made some desperate saves but a tripping call on Zuccarello put the Kings on the power play. The call could have gone either way, as Zuccarello was chasing the puck to the blue line and Jake Muzzin did nothing to avoid having his leg run into. Logically, he should have, if he had any intention of chasing the puck the other way instead of letting it go right by him. So that call was mysterious.

The Kings only needed 17 seconds of power play time to tie the game. Henrik Lundqvist had stopped the shot but it was sitting just between his legs. Marian Gaborik was right in front of him, having squeezed in front of Anton Stralman. With a quick poke he shot the puck under Lundqvist. The shot had plenty of momentum in case of snow piles.

The Kings had consistently led on the shot clock, almost doubling the Rangers in total shots. In the third, however, the Kings were shooting the Rangers to pieces. The period totals were 12-3 for Los Angeles. The Kings finished with a very dangerous play. Anze Kopitar picked up the puck near the circle at the Rangers’ end, carried the puck into the corner and back out, despite being harassed by Ryan McDonagh. He held it long enough to find the late-arriving Jake Muzzin with a perfect backhand pass for a final shot through traffic. The shot went wide but it was a strong finish from the Kings.

Near the four minute mark of the first overtime, the Rangers drew a power play when Voynov went to the box for hooking. The Rangers, led by an impressive forecheck from Brad Richards, made a good start to the power play but it lost some steam when Ryan McDonagh’s shot beamed its way through some traffic only to hit the post.

The middle minutes of the period consisted of grueling up and down play, with the Kings continuing to outshoot the Rangers. With about six minutes left, Tanner Pearson had two tries at Lundqvist, a shot and then a wrap-around but Lundqvist got across to stop both.

A couple of minutes later, the Kings pinned the Rangers in their zone again. For the first time, the Rangers looked weary, losing battles on the boards and unable to get the puck out. Finally, Dominic Moore did get it out with a careful play off the boards. It was still an icing but his team needed the air.

The Kings were leading the period in shots 13-6.

Jonathan Quick showed uncanny tenacity in the last 90 seconds of the period, when the Rangers overwhelmed the Kings and peppered him with a couple of shots before crashing the net en masse. The referee took his time with the whistle but Quick did find the puck. Two more chances, one for each team ended the first OT. Chris Kreider had a breakaway stopped by Quick, and Jeff Carter had a chance thwarted by Rangers defenders.

It took the Kings almost 15 minutes of the second overtime to finish off the Rangers. They had to kill a penalty 5:43 in when Kyle Clifford went to the box for boarding. After some difficulty getting the puck away from his own net, Alec Martinez, Clifford and Toffoli went the other way in a three on two against Kevin Klein & John Moore. Martinez sent the puck across the neutral zone to Toffoli, who carried it in and took a shot from the half wall. Brian Boyle tried to get back to help but he was too late.  Lundqvist kicked the puck out right to Martinez who did not miss the open net.

It was a disappointing finish for Lundqvist after making 49 saves through almost five periods.

For all the talk of puck luck in this series, it is hard to ignore what looks like a special relationship between the Kings and Friday the 13th. The Kings also played a playoff game on Friday the 13th in 2012. That day, they beat the Vancouver Canucks. That was just a first round game, the second in the series. What are the odds they would win twice on Friday the 13th, and win the Cup both seasons?

Stanley Cup Final: New York Rangers Hang On to Win Game 4

By Mary Walsh

The New York Rangers saved themselves from a sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings with a little luck and a lot of persistence. As usual, the Rangers took the early lead, but finally they were able to hold on to it for a 2-1 win. The third period was more harrowing than any we have seen so far in this series, with the Rangers managing only one shot on goal to the Comeback Kings’ 15. After the game, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was asked about that third period:

It was a battle, the whole game. When they turn it up, you need to rely on your teammates and some luck. We’ve been talking about it all series: to beat this team, you need some sort of puck luck and we definitely had it tonight.

The win set a new NHL record, as the Rangers are now 8-0 in elimination games at home since 2008. Lundqvist has been in net for all of those wins.

Wednesday, Lundqvist made 40 saves on 41 shots. At the other end, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick only faced 19 shots and gave up two goals. It was a reversal from Game 3, where the overworked Quick stood on his head for the win and Lundqvist couldn’t catch a break despite seeing far fewer shots. After the game, Lundqvist talked about the team’s mindset:

Whatever happens, we’re winning this game. We’re not losing two at home. We want to get back in this series… it’s not impossible, they’ve done it, we came back from 3-1, but you need to be so smart playing against this team. They’re good and they almost trick you sometimes, you think you have under control and they make a couple of quick plays and create something out of basically nothing.

The Kings were the faster team out of the gate. After five minutes, the Kings had three shots on goal, the Rangers none. The Rangers’ first shot had promise, with Rick Nash going to the net. Derrick Stepan’s shot from the half wall went off of Drew Doughty’s stick and fluttered into Jonathan Quick for a whistle.

A few moments later, the Kings took the game’s first penalty. The Rangers’ power play was very controlled, though they took shots with caution. The strategy did at least keep the puck away from the Kings, but it was almost a minute before the Rangers had a good chance, only to be thwarted by Quick.

The penalty had just expired when New York’s Benoit Pouliot scored with deflected a shot from John Moore at the blue line.

The Kings’ first power play came from a delay of game call, when Anze Kopitar pressured Mats Zuccarello into throwing the puck over the glass. The Kings’ best chance came early in the power play, when a puck crept by Lundvquist but Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman got his stick behind it and swept it out, despite having to compete with Jeff Carter, who was trying to push the puck over the line.

It was a good thing the Rangers scored when they did, because for the last 11+ minutes of the first, their triggers were malfunctioning. They got credit for no shots in the second half of the period. The Kings, meanwhile, kept Lundqvist moderately busy, but they did not beat him in the first.

Over seven minutes and a bundle of penalties had gone in the second when the Rangers stretched their lead to two. A fast zone entry by the Rangers ended with a shot from Derek Stepan that fluttered off of Quick, to be put away by Marty St. Louis.

That got the house jumping, and a little extra zip in the Rangers’ step earned them another power play. The Kings threw themselves into the penalty kill and took a couple of short-handed shots, without straying too far from their own blue line. Lundqvist handled those neatly.

Once the Kings killed off that penalty, they started to chip away at the Rangers’ lead. Kings captain Dustin Brown got by Dan Girardi at the Kings blue line, thanks to a broken stick for Girardi. He was able to carry the puck in mostly unmolested, and beat Lundqvist with a late shot.

That goal seemed to open the floodgates for the Kings. The next few minutes showed the Rangers facing onslaught after onslaught from Kings’ forecheckers. The Rangers did manage to hold the zone finally around the 12 minute mark, and generate a few chances before the puck went out of play.

The Kings then found themselves being pretty effectively ejected from the Rangers’ zone, and were limited to one and dones, while the Rangers at least held the offensive zone for longer than one shot. The Kings’ 70s line of Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter broke that pattern and maintained steady pressure against the Rangers, controlling the puck and peppering Lundqvist with shots. The Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Dwight King line followed up by drawing a penalty that put Dominic Moore in the box for cross-checking.

The penalty kill was made more challenging by another broken stick, this time for Rick Nash. A shot deflected out of play and stopped play before that became much of an issue. After 90 seconds, the Kings’ power play only had one shot on goal. Nash and Stepan were able to kill some time with a short-handed foray to end the penalty kill.

The Rangers missed an opportunity when Quick went behind the net and got tangled up in traffic. The Kings burrowed in and made a shot impossible for the Rangers. Right after that, Jeff Carter broke away in the last minute but this time Lundqvist won the one-on-one contest to keep the Rangers ahead.

The period ended with Los Angeles leading in shots 26-17, 15-11 for the period.

The Kings did not slow down in the third, but the Rangers did not lie down either. Henrik Lundvist had to make some tough saves through traffic in the first ten minutes. One shot from Tyler Toffoli looked dangerous, and it was an expensive shot for the Kings. Marian Gaborik was flattened by Rick Nash behind the net, after getting the puck out to Toffoli.

The Rangers seemed to be repeating the Kings’ third from the last game, clinging to the one goal lead by the skin of their teeth. In the last minutes, Derek Stepan saved a goal by pushing the puck under his goalie with a glove. The referee was in good position to verify that Stepan did not close his hand over the puck.

The Kings pulled Quick in the last 1:11, and an empty net shot from the Rangers’ zone by Brian Boyle went just wide. It didn’t matter, the Rangers held on for the last minute despite some mad scrambles in front of Lundqvist.

Asked whether the team felt like the puck was finally bouncing in their favor, Dominic Moore said:

Definitely when the puck lays on the goal line and doesn’t cross you feel a bit fortunate. But personally I feel like you can’t really think about breaks going one way or the other, you just got to continue to earn your breaks. Hopefully … tonight’s something we can build off in terms of doing some things well and we’ll see what happens next game.

Ryan McDonagh led the Rangers in time on ice with 28:10. Martin St. Louis, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan each took three shots, and no Ranger took more. Dan Girardi blocked six shots for the team lead. Dominic Moore was the best Ranger in the faceoff circle at 47%.

Tanner Pearson led the Kings in shots with eight. Jake Muzzin led the team with five blocked shots, and Drew Doughty led the team in minutes with 26:45. Justin Williams was pointless for the first time in five games.

Game 5 will be played in Los Angeles on Friday at 5 pm PT.

Stanley Cup Final: Kings Shut Out Rangers in Game 3, Lead Series 3-0

By Mary Walsh

After a 3-0 win in New York, the Los Angeles Kings are the verge of sweeping the New York Rangers out of the the Stanley Cup Final. Two seasons ago, they were in the same position against the New Jersey Devils. They also started that series by winning two overtime games, then winning the third with a shutout. The Devils rallied and won the next two to stretch the series to six games.

Of being up three games to none, Justin Williams said:

Just because you’re leading a series doesn’t mean that you’ve won anything.

The game showed improvement in some areas for the Kings. They skipped the sluggish first period and falling behind early. They showed the defensive prowess they are known for. Jonathan Quick turned in an impressive 32 save shutout in his first game at Madison Square Garden.

Of the mood in the Kings’ room, Williams said:

It’s all business in there. Certainly right now, yeah, we’re happy, we’re up three-nothing. But we know as good as anyone that three-nothing doesn’t mean four and the fourth one’s the hardest and we’re going to be ready for it.

Being ready might have to include generating more offense. The Kings were dangerously outshot, testing their goaltender and defensive resilience. In the second period the Rangers outshot the Kings 17-8, in the third 11-2.

A 3-0 shutout might look like an about-face from the two games they won in overtime, but this game should have been closer on the scoreboard than it was. Two of the Kings goals relied on unlucky bounces off of Rangers players.

The Rangers have to be feeling frustration now, and there was one penalty that could well be a focal point of that frustration. At 14:02 of the third period, the Rangers’ Chris Kreider was called for goalie interference, after pushing Drew Doughty in the direction of Jonathan Quick. Doughty went in to Quick and took him down, but no goal, no good scoring chance resulted.

It was not a completely insane call, but it was wildly inconsistent. It made the non-call against Dwight King even more grotesque, as he scored a goal by falling on Henrik Lundqvist in Game Two. Granted, the calls were not made by the same referees, but it is likely to be a sore point.

The first period was noteworthy for two reasons: the Kings scored first, which is so infrequent that it seemed like a mistake. Additionally, the NHL server was down for most of the period so there were no stats available. Once the server came back up, the officials finally made a call, a coincidence no doubt. The call went for New York but they did not score with the man advantage.

Though the penalty took up most of the time remaining in the period, Los Angeles’ Jeff Carter still managed to squeak an even strength goal in before the period ended. Justin Williams found him in the slot, where Carter put a quick wrist shot past Lundqvist. The shot appeared to go off of Dan Girardi’s skate and the tip of Henrik Lundqvist’s glove. It was an auspicious start for the Kings and another point for Justin Williams.

The second period was littered with penalties. They were called at a rate of about one every three and a half minutes, three against each team. Only the Kings converted, and they only did so once.

Starting with a lead did not put the Kings off their rhythm. As usual, they scored early in the second period again, this time with the help of a power play, giving them a 2-0 lead. This put them doubly in unfamiliar territory, since it is their habit to be on the other side of the two goal lead before they win.

The goal was a little later than usual, a power play goal made possible by Marc Staal being called for high-sticking. The call may have been overdue, as other players, including Staal, had gotten away with some high-sticks already. It took the Kings just under a minute to score. Jake Muzzin threw one in from the point while Jeff Carter screened Lundqvist. New York’s Martin St. Louis tried to block the shot but only deflected it around his goaltender.

The third Los Angeles goal came off a two on one of Trevor Lewis and Mike Richards versus Ryan McDonagh. Richards tried to pas the puck but it went off of McDonagh and came back to Richards. By then, he had the shot and he took it.

The Rangers entered the third period trailing by three, having gone 0-7 in the playoffs when trailing after two periods. That had to be as discouraging as the three goal deficit.

The Rangers did make one change late in the second: head coach Alain Vigneault put Rick Nash on the power play. He started by crashing the net, something the Rangers have not done enough of through the series. The collision did little more than aggravate Quick, who gave Nash a glove to the head for his trouble.

Nash was again on the ice for the Rangers power play early in the third period. The power play as a whole was ineffective, mostly taken up by a game of keep away by the Kings.

Henrik Lundqvist made 12 saves for New York. Derick Brassard led the Rangers in shots with five. Ryan McDonagh and Marc Stall each blocked two shots and no Ranger blocked more, but there were not very many to block. McDonagh led the team in time on ice with 26:56.

Jeff Carter led the Kings in shots with four, Jake Muzzin led in blocked shots with four, and Drew Doughty led in time on ice with 26:03.

Game Four will be played Wednesday  in New York at 5:00 PT.

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.