New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, of Sweden, right, blocks a shot by Los Angeles Kings right wing Justin Williams during the first period of Game 2 in the NHL Stanley Cup Final hockey series in Los Angeles, Saturday, June 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
The Los Angeles Kings never make it easy, but they definitely know how to close out a game as Dustin Brown’s overtime winner gave the team a 5-4 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday night and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
We’ll have plenty more reaction to this game, as well as a look ahead to Game 3 of the series in the Big Apple on Monday night, but for now, here are our Three Stars of Game 2.
Third Star: Jarret Stoll
While Brown got a ton of love from the media after his overtime game-winner (he was named First Star of the contest by the LA media after the game), Stoll’s contributions to the victory were just as important as those of the team’s captain.
To start off with, Stoll scored the Kings’ first goal of the game in the second period. After a Dwight King pass from the point following a Rangers’ turnover, Justin Williams got the puck in the low slot near the goal mouth. New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist came out to challenge a shot, but Williams opted to turn back around and head toward the point. Caught out of position, the goaltender could only watch helplessly as Stoll fired a shot past Lundqvist and Kevin Klein that brought the Kings back to within a goal.
Perhaps more importantly than his goal in the game was Stoll’s ability to win face-offs. With Anze Kopitar struggling in a big way from the dot (he only won 16-of-41 draws in the contest), Stoll came up big by winning 23 face-offs in 38 attempts, helping the Kings establish possession and ultimately giving them a leg up in the victory.
Second Star: Justin Williams
Williams shed his reputation as solely a Game 7 giant with his great play in Game 1 of the series, but he had a heck of an encore on Saturday night as the Kings were victorious.
The veteran forward assisted on the Kings’ first three goals of the game and ultimately racked up four shots on goal in the game. He also dished out a hit and blocked a shot in 23:05 of ice time, and his service as a catalyst for the team’s offense was worthy of praise.
In addition to his patient play on Stoll’s second period goal, Williams had a couple of other moments of excellence on the ice. On Willie Mitchell’s goal in the second period, Williams played a key role in establishing a good possession for the Kings, and with Dwight King in front providing a screen, Williams and Slava Voynov cycled the puck to the point for Mitchell to blast in the goal to make it a 3-2 game.
In the third period, a lot of the focus on King’s goal was that he was right in Lundqvist’s crease on the play, but Williams had the key contribution as he protected the puck behind the net from an intense Ranger forecheck, getting a secondary assist as a reward.
First Star: Willie Mitchell
Mitchell’s ability to fire shots from the point came in handy on several occasions on Saturday night, and without his precise shooting, there’s no way that the Kings would have won the game.
Mitchell first displayed his shot on his own second period goal, blasting a slapper past Lundqvist thanks to a clever screen by King. The puck sailed past Lundqvist’s blocker pad and just inside the near post on the play, giving the Kings their first goal of the contest.
In the second overtime period, Mitchell’s shot came in handy again. This time he grabbed a pass from Kopitar at the point, and with Brown flying through the slot, Mitchell wired a shot through the zone that Brown tipped past Lundqvist to give the Kings the victory.
Mitchell also had three blocked shots and a hit in 34:14 of ice time in the game, and without his stellar all-around effort, the team may have faced a tied series instead of a two games to none advantage as the scene shifts to the East Coast for Games 3 and 4.