The LA Kings avoided a scare on Wednesday night when they went down 2-0 to the Rangers early. Several reasons accounted for their slow start, including, according to Williams, Kopitar, and others, underestimating the speed of the Rangers. They vowed not to do the same thing Saturday afternoon in game two, which started at 4pm local time.
Somehow, they failed to show up on time again. They had a heavy five minutes in the middle of the first period, hitting the Rangers like crazy and turning up loose pucks. And in period one, they were close in shots, with a deficit of one, 10-9 for New York. But all the rest of the period, New York was way, way better. How?
They controlled the puck; they outskated the Kings; they had all the dangerous chances. It started immediately, with Nash, Stepan, and Kreider blowing into the zone and getting behind all the Kings but Quick for a chance off a shot that went wide initially.
The first problem for LA was that the Kings couldn’t get the puck in deep at all, because every time they did, two Rangers were there, one to retrieve it, and one as an outlet. It was always back up the ice in a flash.
The second woe to beset the Kings was that the Rangers were way out in front of them on the forecheck. They consistently could turn the puck over in their favor by blasting into the zone and getting it. This started to get in to the LA players’ heads after a while, and they were hurrying it and giving it away.
Turnover numbers in the period favored the Rangers, who gave six pucks away and saw the Kings give away nine. Rather, they pressured the Kings into giving that many away, as they were all over them every time they had the chance, and that was all the time.
Then there were the mistakes on LA’s part, which were altogether a result of the speed and fearlessness of the other side. For instance, in the first five minutes, Voynov tried to carry it out of the zone and Nash got hard on him on the forecheck and forced the puck to the net for a faceoff.
The Rangers’ first goal resulted from the combination of a tough forecheck and LA’s sloppiness with the puck. Three Kings had the puck on their sticks behind the net and couldn’t clear it. Martinez tried. Stoll did. And then Williams put it to the point, where the resulting shot got past a screened Jonathan Quick.
The second goal was another egregious mistake, with Matt Greene muffing a puck at the New York blueline and the Rangers’ taking it down the ice. Brassard gave it to McDOnagh, who put it on net. It hit Zuccarello and dropped to his feet a foot from the goal line, and he put it in the open side.
The one power play chance the Rangers had in the period was perhaps the best two minutes for LA, except when they were hitting the Rangers hard. They shot the puck down the ice four separate times, though they nearly got burned from a shot that came to the front of the net and ping ponged around until Zuccarello tried to get a stick on it and missed and LA cleared. The Kings ended the period down by two.
“They do this all the time,” went the logic. LA has come back so many times this year and this post-season that it has become routine. They might want to have a look across town to the Ducks to see how well that works out as a long-term strategy. Nonetheless, they did it again, taking a goal back, then letting in another, taking that back, and immediately after that one (like eleven seconds, the play coming right off the center-ice faceoff) letting in one more, so that the score went 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2, 4-2, and that’s where period two ended.
Behind by two goals one more time, Los Angeles got a goal within the first two minutes of period three, Dwight King scoring his third of the year. He would have a chance to win the game in OT, but that’s a bit ahead of the story. More about his goal below, too.
Meantime, Gaborik tied the game at 7:36 of the third off a scrambly play with Kopitar and Brown also on the ice. Kopitar kept the puck in and went to the net with it. Gaborik got it in the slot and took a short little flip shot that went over the netminder Lundqvist.
Still, LA was at best even with New York in carrying the play, and mostly behind. Even late in that period, though the so-called “70s line” was more engaged than they had been earlier in the game, the Kings were behind the play. Williams went into the Rangers’ end and didn’t get the puck on the forecheck though Stoll was there as well, and the Rangers were quickly back up the ice.
Later in the period, the Kings were lazy to clear on a faceoff and Nash hunted down the puck and got it to the point, from where it was delivered on net.
Then again, how well can a team be playing when three different times, they give up a two-goal lead? Brad Richards said after the game, “It was just a good hockey game both ways. It’s tough to give up two two-goal leads. Tough one tonight, right now.Two games with one shot and we can win.” Tough alright. His summation, “We can win and we have to win our two at home.” He later reiterated, “We are going to have to get over it quick, to win our two at home.” OK, so you already know the Rangers lost, and that’s not a spoiler.
The play was much more even in the OT. Not that the teams were careful with the puck or afraid to go to the net. Rather, they each took their chances with it, aided by a couple of suspicious penalty calls, a high stick on Moore of New York and two penalties on the Kings. One, for goalie interference, on Jeff Carter, seemed to be a makeup for a non-call on the Dwight King goal, during which he had been sandwiched between the goalie and a defenseman, knocking the netminder over and getting his stick on the puck at the same time for a deflection.
But each team survived being shorthanded, and the first OT went down to the end and expired.
The second OT saw a replay of the first play of the game, with Nash in behind the LA net on a forecheck. Directly after that, Brown and Gaborik were in the Rangers’ zone. The latter kept the puck and fired after a screen developed, and Lunqvist had to make a leg save. What nobody could know at that minute was that it would be that line that would end up creating the winning goal as the period wound towards its halfway point.
The Rangers iced the puck three times consecutively in the middle of the go, and Mike Richards took the puck toward their net on one play, but he turned his shoulder toward the right, away from the cage, as he went through the slot, rather than left, which would have taken him to the net.
Play then slowed down, both teams tired, exhausted really. It was a factor that Sutter in his post-game comments, referenced, when reminded that he and the Kings had gone to OT three nights in a row.
“We’ve played a lot of minutes,” he said, citing certain guys, like the defensemen Muzzin and Doughty. OK, so it’s not a terribly detailed answer. He reprised that with, “I thought about it the other night; I thought about it in the third; and I thought about it in the first overtime. These guys have played a lot of minutes, in, how many games is it? [crowd: twenty-three] Twenty-three.”
It looked like a junky goal might end it, and one was almost scored when Richards pushed the puck into the zone and King went around the net with it, poking it to the net. But in the end, it was a good bit of team play that caused the Kings to put one more puck past Lundqvist than his guys had put past Quick.
The goal that ended it began when Mitchell threw the puck down low after holding it at the blueline. Kopitar picked it up at the left faceoff dot and held it away from the man checking him. He got it out to Mitchell, still at the left point, who one-timed it, with both Brown and Gaborik in front of the net. The puck may have gone off both, but it certainly went off the stick of Brown, who was the last to touch it.
After the game, he said, “I think it started on the forecheck . . . . I picked up the puck and I picked up the puck and I gave it to [Mitchell] and circled high, went around the net. I went to the net and kind of skated away from the net as he was shooting. I got a piece of it.”
At this point, the Kings had fired 44 shots, and the Rangers 38. The play had been going on for four and a half periods. Each team had survived penalties. And
In a funny way, you could call this one a goaltenders’ battle. Neither goalie made a mistake. Each made a number of amazing saves as the shot total will indicate: 39 for the Rangers, and 34 for the Kings. Sure, they let in a lot of goals, relatively speaking if you take their past performance as an indication of what they should do. But being beaten cleanly and then coming up with one amazing save after another to follow is the mark of goaltending excellence, and both guys had it in this game.
Perhaps the only visible mistake by either was Lundqvist, on the first Kings’ goal. He ended up far out of his net and the puck went into an essentially empty cage, but fault his teammates Klein and Richards, who were responsible for the turnover that gave the Kings the chance to start with.
Game one in this series featured some mistakes, including the one by Kreider than led to the winning goal in OT. Game two was a much cleaner contest, with some giveaways—many in fact. The Rangers recorded 15 and the Kings 33. Shockingly sloppy play on LA’s part? No, just steady, good pressure on New York’s. But they weren’t the kind of turnovers that could be pinned on guys as leading to goals.
Game two was exciting to watch, and either team could have won. That’s the nature of Alain Vigneault’s comments after the game. “You look at the scoring chances in the third. . . . We played well. We had some looks in overtime, but they scored. We’ve played close to nine periods, and for the most part I’ve liked a lot of things about our game.”
He’s right, and his team was once more fast, good on the forecheck, and able to keep the Kings pinned in their zone.
On the LA side, the Kings are not moving the puck out of the zone well at all. They’re standing still, passing the puck to the hash marks, and waiting, or one guy is trying to skate it out from there. It’s not working. But for whatever reason, the Kings can’t seem to lose. Even they can’t explain why.
Jarrett Stoll said after, “Are we playing good or are we not? Right now, we’re doing a lot of things that aren’t in our game, haven’t been in our game I think for years now. We’re getting away with it I think right now.”
The Rangers now have their chance to show that they’re not rolling over. The teams play again Monday evening in Madison Square Garden.
The Kings have won both series games, but haven’t led one second of regulation time. This was their third straight OT game.
The longest OT in Kings history was June 8 last year in Chicago, with this game being second in line.
All of the last three games have seen the Kings come from down by two goals.
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