The New York Rangers are quickly learning what San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago learned in the Western Conference playoffs: The Los Angeles Kings are the ultimate horror-movie killers. It doesn’t matter if you drain their blood, sever their head and burn their body — they just won’t die.
Los Angeles erased three two-goal deficits in one night and captain Dustin Brown deflected Willie Mitchell’s shot past New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist in double overtime as the Kings took a 2-0 series lead with a 5-4 win over the Rangers in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday at Staples Center.
The Kings haven’t held a lead in either game until the final horn sounded.
L.A.’s rally marked the 15th game of this postseason in which a team has overcome a two-goal deficit to win. This one wasn’t without controversy, however. L.A. pulled within a goal early in the third period on a play that sure looked like goalie interference (more on that below), but the Rangers couldn’t overcome it and the Kings used it to fuel them, outshooting New York 6-1 in the second overtime.
How New York gets up off the mat after two gut-wrenching, overtime losses is anybody’s guess. Maybe it won’t. All L.A. needs is a split in New York and the Kings could celebrate a second Cup in three years on home ice Friday.
Somehow, these teams have to board a flight to New York and play Game 3 on Monday at Madison Square Garden. Scheduling is always at the mercy of arenas’ other events, but clearly, the two days of rest the teams just got before Game 2 would have been better used on this cross-country trip.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Dustin Brown’s deflection: Once again, the rule of overtime is to get pucks to the net and get traffic in front of said net. The Kings did both. Defenseman Willie Mitchell took care of the shot, wing Dustin Brown took care of the traffic and the deflection and the Kings took care of the Rangers.
Dwight King’s illegal goal: With the Rangers leading 4-2 early in the third period, the Kings forward took a direct path into New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist, got jostled a little by Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and clearly interfered with Lundqvist as he deflected Matt Greene’s shot into the net. Maybe someday the NHL will decide that if the puck goes in the net and there’s any question of interference, the refs should always look at the video. This goal turned the tide of the game and maybe ended any hopes New York has of a victory in this series.
In their run to the 2012 Stanley Cup (the franchise’s first), the Kings and goalie Jonathan Quick allowed three or more goals only three times in the playoffs. Saturday’s game marked the 12th time L.A. had allowed three or more goals in the 2014 postseason.
Los Angeles leads 2-0
1. RW Justin Williams, Los Angeles: Williams had three assists to pull into a tie with teammate Jeff Carter for second in the NHL in postseason points (23).
2. D Willie Mitchell: A goal and an assist, the latter of which made up for a major gaffe behind his own net that led to New York’s fourth goal.
3. LW Mats Zuccarello, New York: A goal, an assist and six hits for the Rangers’ Norwegian forward, who was all over the ice on Saturday.
LW Dwight King, Los Angeles: He had the critical and controversial goal that started L.A.’s rally, but he also had an assist, four hits, three shots and a plus-two rating.
"Just shows the character of this team, the resiliency. We never quit and got it done eventually." — L.A. center Anze Kopitar on facing another two-goal deficit (three of them, actually)
"I don’t know about one for the ages. Whatever. It’s a win." — a classically subdued Justin Williams on the Kings’ win
"I don’t give a (expletive) about underdogs. That’s ridiculous. … We’re here to win. Doesn’t matter how we do it." — New York center Brian Boyle on the Rangers’ supposed underdog status
"Ask the NHL." – Rangers coach Alain Vigneault when asked if Dwight King’s goal in the third period constituted goalie interference
WHAT WE LEARNED
Can we all just acknowledge that Kings goalie Jonathan Quick hasn’t been very good in this postseason? You can call it inconsistent if you want, but that means he hasn’t been good; he’s been OK. Quick’s .906 save percentage and 2.80 goals-against average this postseason are below average, plain and simple, and in this case, they are an accurate reflection of how he has played.
The thing is — and his teammates and coaches have noted this — he makes the saves when he needs to, and he keeps winning. Quick was terrific in the first overtime when New York had a lot of offensive zone time.
Maybe this new version of the L.A. Kings won’t need Quick to be the 2012 Conn Smythe-winning version because they have been scoring like the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s (an NHL-high 3.52 goals per game in the playoffs).
As noted above, L.A. seems capable of overcoming every obstacle. New York has been pretty good in this series. Not Chicago good, but better than most expected. The Rangers have used their speed as a weapon, and they have a world-class goalie who imbues the team in front of him with confidence.
New York could lose this series quickly and many will say the Rangers were not worthy. Games 3 and 4 in New York will provide a better barometer, but right now, the Rangers just appear to be running into a team of destiny — and a team far too complete to blow the chance when it is this close to the prize.
Monday at New York, 8 p.m. ET
Not to sound the alarm for Kings fans already, but forward Marian Gaborik is two goals away from matching Wayne Gretzky (15 in 1993) for the most goals by a King in one postseason. Gaborik, as everyone by now knows, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If Ales Hemsky’s now broken-off contract talks with Ottawa are a guide, Gaborik could be looking to cash in big-time.
What do you do if you’re the Kings? Gaborik, 32, has proven to be a marvelous complement to Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown on the top line, giving previously anemic L.A. a major offensive jolt. On the flip side, GM Dean Lombardi is pretty adept at trade-deadline deals. And what do you do if you’re Gaborik? Clearly, this line is a great fit. Do you chase the money and risk a much worse fit — one you’ve already experienced in Columbus?