Cockroaches. Dustin Brown and his team are cockroaches. The Los Angeles Kings won in double overtime tonight, again overcoming a 2-0 deficit against the New York Rangers. The 2012 run was notable for how easy LA made it look; if the Kings manage to win the Stanley Cup, this one will be remembered for just how hard LA made it for themselves.
The two teams didn’t wait long to get going in Game Two. Jonathan Quick had to stop Rick Nash (who was all over the ice) on an odd-man rush 30 seconds in, while Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar tested Henrik Lundqvist back-to-back. Tyler Toffoli and Justin Williams each had chances with room in front of Lundqvist; Toffoli was denied, while Williams let the puck trickle off his stick with no one around him. An early penalty kill didn’t faze the Kings either, as Toffoli rang one off the outside of the post shorthanded. However, the Kings faltered in their own zone, and a Justin Williams defensive zone turnover cost them. Dominic Moore swooped in to grab the puck and set up Ryan McDonagh, whose blast beat Quick.
One goal deficits after the first period are nothing new, but Mats Zuccarello scored a late goal to make it 2-0, soon after Lundqvist made a nice glove stop on Alec Martinez. Matt Greene had the puck on his stick just a couple feet from the blue line, but he whiffed on a cross-ice pass and the Rangers kept it in. Another long McDonagh shot was heading wide, but Zuccarello had inside position on Anze Kopitar next to the goalmouth, and he tapped it in after it hit him. The Kings usually get one back before intermission, and nearly did, but Toffoli missed the net on a wrister from close range, and the Rangers held a 2-0 lead after one.
The Kings did get their goal shortly after the start of the second period, and it was a doozy. Justin Williams was alone in front (didn’t the Rangers learn from Game 1?) to tackle a rebound of Dwight King’s shot, and Lundqvist was forced to slide out wide to block the angle Williams had. Williams fed back to Stoll, and though he mostly whiffed on his shot, it got past Lundqvist, and Kevin Klein tried to play goalie but failed. Sloppy hockey ensued for ten minutes, and the Kings got caught with too many men on the ice to help the Rangers restore their lead. On the power play, Derek Stepan beat Greene to set up a 2-on-1, and Martin St. Louis one-timed his pass over a flailing Quick.
Zuccarello tripped (who else?) Dustin Brown to give LA a power play opportunity, and after 1:45 of nothing but struggles, Willie Mitchell shrugged and wound up from the blueline. It worked! Mitchell’s first goal since January 20 looked like just the lifeline that LA needed, but eleven seconds later, he was part of an ugly sequence that gave it right back. Jonathan Quick tried to stop a New York dump-in behind his net, but instead of settling it, his stick popped the puck into the air. That caused Mitchell to whiff on his clearing attempt, and Zuccarello set up Derick Brassard. LA went quietly into the intermission, and it felt like a dagger.
But for the second straight period, LA got within one inside the first two minutes. Not without controversy, though… Dwight King was all over Lundqvist on Greene’s point shot, and it certainly could have resulted in a goaltender interference penalty. It did not. See for yourself:
(Lundqvist thought it should have; so did Alain Vigneault, although he was more subtle about it.) Regardless, the goal stood, and much like every other goaltender interference call this season, it will probably lead to that call being reviewable next season. The fans at Staples ramped up the noise once again (they were fantastic tonight) and waited for the Kings to once again tie the game in the third period. Marian Gaborik obliged. Anze Kopitar kept the puck in the zone, Dustin Brown fought along the boards, and Kopitar helped force the puck loose from McDonagh near the goal. After a couple whacks, Gaborik scored up high, and it was 4-4. Just as everyone expected.
Overtime, inevitably, ensued. Trevor Lewis had the first good chance of overtime, but the Rangers followed up with two much better opportunities. Dominic Moore fumbled the puck away with a clear look in close, and Chris Kreider hit the post after Anze Kopitar and Jake Muzzin made a hash of a defensive zone pass. The Kings licked their chops soon after Moore's stick caught Carter in said chops, but Williams got in the path of Rick Nash after a clear and the chance went away. Nash made the most of it, but it was probably the right call; another interference penalty later in OT was more debatable. Jeff Carter caught the leg of Lundqvist while forechecking, and Lundqvist pitched himself forward and stayed down. Again, probably the right call, but an embellishment call certainly wouldn't have been out of place. (Perhaps it was the pendulum swinging on the non-goalie interference call from earlier, in which case, fine, carry on.)
The Kings survived the PK, and nearly won it when King shot wide on a 2-on-1 feed from Pearson. Kreider then came right back and got a breakaway but missed the net, and Quick made crucial back-to-back stops in the final 30 seconds to force a second overtime. Quick only had to stop one in double overtime, Nash's eighth shot of the game, while LA got five on goal in the first ten minutes. The fifth was the only real chance for LA, as Lundqvist stuffed King on a wraparound. After the TV timeout at ten minutes, LA finally broke through, and again, it was Willie Mitchell who provided the unlikely shot. Mitchell's first attempt was blocked by Brad Richards, but his second was tipped by Dustin Brown in the slot and beat Lundqvist.
Brown dropped his stick and exulted as the streamers fell, and LA took a 2-0 lead despite once again making plenty of mistakes. It was another exhausting one; thank goodness for the two days off before this one, as Doughty played 41:41 and Muzzin played 36:36 on the back end. Both teams will try to get plenty of sleep, and they'll get back at it Monday night in New York.