LOS ANGELES — Slow starts, overtime wins. It’s almost becoming routine for the Los Angeles Kings who, despite their 2-0 series lead over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final, like to make things significantly more difficult for themselves.
But the Kings, as we all know, are the toughest out in the NHL, so the fact that they came back from yet another 2-0 deficit to win 5-4 in double overtime in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, Saturday afternoon at Staples Center, is nothing new.
It was their third-straight postseason overtime game and the third-straight win. Dustin Brown tipped in Willie Mitchell’s shot from the blue line at 10:26 into the second overtime to net the game-winner.
"We have to be able to come back," said head coach Darryl Sutter. "You’re not going to lead every game."
Except the Kings haven’t held a lead since Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals all of 11 days ago. That game was also another double-overtime thriller.
"I don’t know what the heck is going on," said defenseman Jake Muzzin. "We’re giving them two and we’re coming back a couple times now. Definitely not the game plan we want, we’ll take the win but we want better starts, that’s for sure."
Much as they did in Game 1, the Rangers scored twice in the first period. The Kings played sloppy looked to be a step behind the speedy New York forwards. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh scored on a laser from the point and Mats Zuccarello threw a rebound on a wide open net.
However, a 2-0 lead is too slim when you still have to play 40 minutes against the grind-em-down Los Angeles club, or in this case, 79 minutes and 16 seconds.
"They’ve been in three Game 7s and come out on top. They were Stanley Cup champions a couple years ago. They know what it takes to win," said Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi. "They’re getting those good bounces, those good plays in front. We’re just going to have to find a way to, when we have the lead, to hold on to it, especially against a team like this. We know they’re going to be coming.
"They have all that experience over there and we need to be ready for that."
Fatigue starting to kick in for Kings after third straight OT win
The Rangers didn’t look ready for what was coming next and their inability to adjust cost them in the end.
After threatening to tie all night, Matt Greene’s shot from the point was tipped in by Dwight King less than two minutes into the third period to cut the lead to 4-3. King was practically on top of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who cried interference but the officials would not accept his plea.
"He said the puck had already passed me, I don’t buy it," Lundqvist said. "That’s a wrist shot that I’m just going to reach out for and I can’t move. It’s a different game after that. It’s such an important play in the game."
Any momentum the Rangers had was gone after King’s goal. Lundqvist played spectacularly throughout but his team couldn’t seem to recover.
Later in the third, Marian Gaborik, who provided the Game 7 heroics in Chicago when he tied the game late in the third period, came through again and another overtime battle waged.
Chance after chance was had for both team in a wild overtime period. The Rangers brought the embellishment once again and the Kings brought the hits. Finally, Mitchell launched a shot from deep and found Brown.
Not an ideal method, but Kings playoff hockey has been nothing short of madness from Game 1 in San Jose.
"I think the room thinks that there’s definitely room for improvement," said center Anze Kopitar. "We’ve had this before in these playoffs and blew it. Now we have to focus on Game 3 and make sure weâre ready for it."
Giving up big leads are typically uncharacteristic for the defensively-rooted Kings club but that hasn’t been the case in the 2014 edition of the playoffs. Goaltender Jonathan Quick gave up only six goals in six games during the 2012 Stanley Cup Final — he needed just over four periods to give up that number this year.
It’s the Kings’ ability to play each game as if it were there last that makes them exceptionally tough to play against in crucial situations.
"I don’t know what it is, it’s hard to explain but we’ve got a calm belief in here that we can win every game no matter what the score is and no matter what the situation is," Muzzin said. "The experience, the leadership, the guys around, guys making big plays when we need to make them and Quickie making big saves when we need him to is giving us confidence."