LOS ANGELES — Cardiac Kings, Comeback Kings — the Los Angeles Kings have earned a few affectionate nicknames during their 2014 Stanley Cup playoff run. Those aren’t going away anytime soon.
For the second time in as many games, the Kings overcame a two-goal deficit. The last one was Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. This one — the first series-opening game contested at the Staples Center this postseason — was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers.
Both teams were looking for a 1-0 series lead, and yet there was no winner after regulation, even after the Kings outshot the Rangers 20-3 in the third period.
Finally, it was Justin Williams who put one in the back of the net just over four and a half minutes into overtime, earning the Kings a 3-2 win to take a 1-0 series lead.
There was an establishment of bad blood and the foundation of a series that isn’t likely to be any easier than the last three, at least as far as the Kings are concerned.
"Definitely lost some hair over it," said Kings’ forward Kyle Clifford, who’s first-period goal was a key turning point in an otherwise lackluster first period for Los Angeles. "We just want to come out with a better start. We didn’t like the start we had but we had a good response to it."
Clifford provides surprising spark in Kings’ Game 1 win READ MORE
Game 1 was more accurately Game 22. The Kings have played an exceptionally arduous postseason, forcing three decisive Game 7s in the previous three rounds. With the exception of Clifford, no one seemed able to find their skating legs early.
"We were all looking at each other after the first period in the room here saying, ‘Whoa, the legs are heavy,’" said defenseman Willie Mitchell. "And when you’re skating in mud like that the mind starts to drift and it feels like you’re not playing as well as you should.
"Pretty much everyone saw that, we relied on our goaltender way too much."
The New York transition game burned the Kings more than once. The speedy Rangers forwards capitalized on turnovers with Benoit Pouliot putting a scare into the Kings early. With Kings defensemen Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin both going for the puck, Pouliot took it from Doughty, flew through the neutral zone and threw the puck top shelf over goaltender Jonathan Quick in an instant.
"That’s the type of guy he is, He gets mad and he gets better," Mitchell said. "We’re fortunate enough to have a player of that magnitude to do that and he needed to do it to kind of get us back."
A late second-period high stick by Mike Richards sent Derek Brassard pirouetting round and round, selling it as if he was performing an Olympic short program. The move was just minutes after he drew the ire of the Kings for boarding of their captain, Dustin Brown.
Doughty, who had been laid out only a few minutes before, gestured wildly from the bench and still Richards ended up in the penalty box. In the third, it was Doughty who was sent to the box for embellishing, as if the officials were playing a cruel joke on the defenseman.
"Yeah, I didn’t really control my emotions too well at that point," he said, laughing. "It was just heat of the moment. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, stuff like that’s going to go down."
Emotions are high and so is the level of competition. It’s a melodrama fit for the the country’s two biggest markets. Scripted in Hollywood and performed off Broadway in New York, this edition of the Stanley Cup Final is shaping up to be a wild one.