The Los Angeles Kings have been touted as comeback specialists during this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, but they also know what it’s like to build a series lead only to watch it crumble before them.
L.A. and head coach Darryl Sutter hold a 1-0 series lead over the New York Rangers heading into Saturday night’s Game Two of the Finals at Staples Center, but they’ve been here before.
After becoming the fourth team in NHL to storm back from a 3-0 deficit in the first round against San Jose, the Kings tightened up and held a 2-0 lead over Anaheim, and were also up 3-1 against Chicago in the Western Conference Finals, before needing seven games in both series to advance.
The Kings will need a victory in Game Two to keep the pressure on the Rangers before the series shifts to Game Three in New York. A less-than-hospitable crowd will likely greet the Kings at Madison Square Garden, an arena that hasn’t hosted a Cup Finals game in 20 years. New York also knows how to erase a deficit, winning three straight in the second round to eliminate Pittsburgh behind stellar play from goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist.
Still, Dan Girardi and the rest of the Rangers will try to forget the defenseman’s late blunder in Game One’s overtime that completed L.A.’s comeback from an early two-goal deficit.
In the right place at the right time, right wing Justin Williams capitalized on Girardi’s mishandled clearance in the Rangers zone and scored the winner 4:36 into the extra period for the 3-2 victory and the early series lead.
It was a downtrodden moment for the Rangers after their blazing speed put the Kings on their heels early, with an unassisted goal by left wing Benoit Pouliot and a breakaway, shorthanded score form left wing Carl Hagelin in the first 15 minutes.
Later, Kings left wing Kyle Clifford got his team on the board with his first goal of the playoffs, and he and Williams assisted defenseman Drew Doughty’s tying goal 6:36 into the second period.
From their Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick bared down for 25 saves on 27 attempts and a .926 save percentage, though his defensive front only surrendered 14 total shots in the final three periods compared to 29 shots on goal for the Kings. It was Quick’s best save percentage and overall performance since Game Seven against Anaheim, when he posted identical stats in the 6-2 win.
Lundqvist actually posted more far saves, 40, and a better save percentage, .930, and kept New York in Game One for as long as possible.
The Kings essentially kept New York’s most potent offensive weapons in check early and often.
New York’s top playmakers in defenseman Ryan McDonagh, center Derek Stepan and right wing Martin St. Louis were held to one combined point in Game One. Ten of McDonaugh’s team-leading 14 points in the postseason came against Montreal in the previous round, while Stepan might still be feeling the effects of the fractured jaw he sustained against the Canadiens. St. Louis hasn’t registered a point since Game Four against Montreal.
The Rangers need to especially remedy their attack on power players. New York is 1-for-19 with a man advantage in its last five games.
“One thing that’s real evident to me, and it should be to our whole group, is we’re not going to beat this team if we do not all bring our A game,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault at a press conference on Thursday.
“It’s that strong of an opponent. They’re one of the best teams I’ve seen in a long time.”
Start Time: 7 p.m. EST
Betting Odds: Kings -1.5
Over/Under: 5 goals
Prediction: New York over L.A. 2-1