I don't know when the Los Angeles Kings decided they could just fall behind by a couple goals whenever they wanted, but they seem to be okay with it these days. Down 2-0 to the New York Rangers after fifteen minutes, LA once again found their resolve and their offense. After a fantastic third period went scoreless, Justin Williams shrugged and beat Henrik Lundqvist 4:36 into overtime to give Los Angeles a 3-2 win and a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Kings started out looking a bit sluggish, and after spending the last two days under a microscope, Jonathan Quick was on top of his game early. Drew Doughty made a lazy play in his own zone and forced Quick to make a goal-saving poke check; a minute later, Kyle Clifford’s pass right into the slot led to another scoring chance. After a couple minutes of relative calm, one more turnover finally led to the opening goal. Doughty got the puck at the blueline with Benoit Pouliot charging toward him. As he so often does, Doughty attempted to stickhandle around Pouliot, but it didn’t work at all, and Pouliot picked him clean. Jake Muzzin fell down trying to get back, and Pouliot had a breakaway and went top corner.
... Carl Hagelin got a rush the other way, and the rebound went right off of Slava Voynov and in. 2-0! Time for the Kings to get one back. Carter ended a beast of a shift by setting up Clifford for his first goal of the playoffs. After looking solid for the first 17 minutes, Henrik Lundqvist let Clifford’s shot beat him from a tough angle, and LA had a much more manageable deficit heading into the break. They did the exact same thing in Games 2, 5, and 7 of the Western Conference Finals, and when they did, it gave them a chance to take back the game.
The second period started with the ice tilted toward Quick’s end of the ice; aside from a 2-on-1 where Trevor Lewis looked off Marian Gaborik (yes, yes, I know), the Rangers got the brunt of the pressure. 6:36 in, though, Justin Williams created an opening for Doughty. Williams drove into the zone and patiently waited… patiently… until Doughty came in trailing the play. Doughty put the puck between his own legs, crept in, searched for a place to shoot, and found the space under the armpit of Lundqvist. The rest of the second was uneventful, save for Chris Kreider butt-ending Doughty and getting away with it.
The third period, remarkably, was scoreless. Why remarkably? Because shots were 20-3. TWENTY. Lundqvist, curse him, stopped every single one. That included a great double chance in front for Anze Kopitar, a tricky wrist shot by Willie Mitchell, and a partial break by Tyler Toffoli. Quick had a much easier workload, but two of them were difficult saves; a 2-on-1 which was turned aside, and somehow, another Hagelin shorthanded breakaway. That happened after Brian Boyle broke Dwight King’s stick with a slash with 1:36 to go. After Hagelin was denied, the Kings went right back and nearly won the game with 30 seconds left; Carter’s wraparound attempt banked off a Ranger and hit the post.
So, overtime. Not too much to talk about before the game-winner, so we'll skip ahead about four minutes. The Kings' dominant third period kept them playing an aggressive style, and they got a 3-on-2, which Williams would later describe as "royally screwed up." Dan Girardi ended up with possession in his own end and, as the rest of the team turned back to skate up-ice, fell down. He tried in vain to clear the puck along the boards, but Benoit Pouliot wasn't looking... and Mike Richards was. Richards tapped it back to the middle of the ice to an open Williams, and before Girardi or Ryan McDonagh could get back to cover, Williams beat Lundqvist high above the blocker. Game over.
Takeaways from this one? Doughty can be incredible, when he's not sloppy. The Kings can be dominant, when they're not giving the puck away or getting caught up-ice. And Williams can be a hero, even when it's not Game Seven. When the Kings turned it on in the third period, they didn't score, but they took control. While New York only got 27 of their 63 shot attempts on net, the Kings ended up getting 43 of their 64 shot attempts on Lundqvist. That ended up being the difference.