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: 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.