The Los Angeles Kings trailed in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, but Justin Williams capped off a comeback victory with the overtime game winner as they won a 3-2 decision over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Kyle Clifford and Drew Doughty also scored goals for the Kings, while Carl Hagelin and Benoit Pouliot had the goals for the Rangers.
In lieu of slowly starting out by prodding for weak spots in the defense, both teams came flying out of the gate to begin the game, and the Rangers had the early advantage in shots and chances. Rick Nash and Chris Kreider each had good shots from in close, but Jonathan Quick made a couple of solid saves. Jeff Carter then ripped a one-timer off a pass from Tanner Pearson, but Henrik Lundqvist was there to slam the door as the game remained scoreless.
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The high pace ended up netting the Rangers the first power play of the game, but they weren’t able to convert. The best chance came at the very end of the man-advantage as Mats Zuccarello picked up a loose puck right next to the cage, but Quick kicked over to the near post and was able to smother the puck.
Just a few minutes later however, the Rangers’ aggressiveness finally paid dividends as they picked up the first goal of the series. When Drew Doughty tried to pull off a toe drag move at the blue line, Benoit Pouliot stole the puck and came down the ice on a breakaway. His wrist shot beat Quick to the blocker side, and the Rangers quieted the crowd by taking a 1-0 lead with about seven minutes remaining in the first period.
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The Kings bounced back by getting a power play chance of their own, but it was New York that ended up scoring to extend their lead. First Brian Boyle had a breakaway chance that Quick was able to stop, and the goaltender also stopped a breakaway shot from Carl Hagelin a few seconds later. Unfortunately for Quick, Slava Voynov accidentally kicked the rebound into the net, and the red light came on as the Rangers took a 2-0 advantage.
With two minutes remaining in the period, the Kings finally got on the board. Carter got things started by driving hard to the net, but his shot ended up sliding wide. The veteran center didn’t quit working however, forcing a turnover with a great backcheck and feeding a pass to Kyle Clifford at the side of the cage. Clifford lifted a quick shot over Lundqvist and into the top corner of the cage to make it a 2-1 game, which it remained through 20 minutes of play.
When the second period got going, the Rangers once again started out aggressively, using their speed to stretch out the Los Angeles defense and create scoring opportunities. Jake Muzzin was whistled for a penalty early in the frame, but the Rangers weren't able to get many shots toward the net on the ensuing power play. Brad Richards had a good opportunity fall by the way side when his shot sailed wide, and the Kings blocked several shots to keep the deficit at just one goal.
Taking advantage of the momentum generated by the successful penalty kill, the Kings came down the ice and tied things up about seven minutes into the period. Justin Williams skated into the zone and immediately turned around to wait for help from his teammates, and he wired a pass to Drew Doughty. The defenseman knifed through the defense, using his speed and puck-handling to get to the net, and he fired a wrist shot past Lundqvist to tie things up at 2-2.
After that goal, things started to get a lot more physical in the game. Dustin Brown was levelled along the boards by Derrick Brassard along the boards, sending the Kings to a power play, but that was just the beginning of the festivities. Numerous players got into shoving matches after plays, and Boyle drilled Doughty in the head with the butt end of his stick. Brassard took a high stick from Mike Richards late in the period as well, but the Rangers weren't able to convert on the first portion of the power play before the second intermission buzzer sounded.
In the first two periods of the game, the action had been largely even, but the Kings really ratcheted up the intensity in the third period. In the first seven minutes of action, Los Angeles outshot the Rangers by a 10-0 margin, with Tyler Toffoli and Willie Mitchell each firing in wicked shots that Lundqvist had to block aside.
Later in the period, the Kings got their offense humming again. Mitchell had a shot blocked to the corner by Lundqvist, and after heading down the ice to break up a 3-on-1 with a diving poke check, he worked the puck back up the ice to Toffoli, who was stopped on a odd man rush by Lundqvist again.
In the final 1:36 of time in the period, the Kings got a power play when Boyle was penalized for slashing. Hagelin nearly scored his second short-handed goal of the evening late in the period, but Quick was able to stop the shot and protect his post from a second chance attempt by the Rangers speedster. At the other end of the ice, Carter had a wraparound attempt that Hagelin nearly kicked into the net by mistake, but Lundqvist scrambled across the crease and pushed the puck out of the blue paint.
When regulation came to an end, the Kings had outshot the Rangers by a 20-3 margin, but the score remained 2-2 as the game headed to overtime.
Early on in the overtime, the Rangers turned the puck over in the defensive zone, and the Kings ended up making them pay. Williams got the puck wide open in the middle of the slot, and when he fired a shot past Lundqvist, he gave his team a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Kings will look to defend home ice again on Saturday night when they take on the Rangers in Game 2 of the series. The game will air at 4pm Pacific time, and can be seen on NBC.