The Los Angeles Kings, described as “cockroaches” for their ability to survive basically any circumstance in these playoffs, lived up to the moniker again on Saturday night as they overcame three separate two-goal deficits to win a 5-4 double overtime victory over the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
With the victory, the Kings have now won three games in a row in the playoffs, including their Game 7 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, after facing two-goal deficits. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that winning streak is the first of its kind in NHL history:
During that run, the team has shown tremendous resilience, but their strategy is a simple one in the eyes of captain Dustin Brown, who had the game-winning goal on Saturday night.
“It starts with one. That’s what our mentality is,” he told the media after the game. “Whether we’re down two, up two, the situation doesn’t change for us. Where we have faltered is at the start of games, the last three games really. The mentality of our team is very black and white. It allows us to stay in games and to kind of turn the tide over the course of the game, and has allowed us to come back.”
That disciplined approach to the game has been a hallmark of head coach Darryl Sutter’s club during this postseason. Even when they were down three games to none in the first round against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings never deviated from their game plan, and that dedication to executing their strategy has led them to repeated impressive comebacks.
In the second round of the playoffs, the Kings got off to a similar start as they have in the Stanley Cup Final, winning the first two games and heading back to Staples Center with a chance to put the Anaheim Ducks on ice. Their crosstown rivals ended up winning the next three games to force the Kings into a do-or-die situation, but Los Angeles pulled through and won the final two games to win the series.
Against the Blackhawks, the Kings found themselves in a unique position as they held a 3-1 lead in the series over the defending champions. Slowly but surely, the Blackhawks clawed back into the series, winning Games 5 and 6 to force a deciding Game 7 in the Windy City. Facing a 2-0 deficit in that game, the Kings eventually worked their way back into tying the game, and won in overtime on a deflected goal by Alec Martinez to advance to the final round of the postseason.
In spite of that repeated success, the team recognizes that they are playing with fire if they continue to trail in games like they have been.
“Are we playing good or are we not? Right now we’re doing a lot of things that aren’t in our game, haven’t been in our game for years here,” Kings forward Jarret Stoll said. “We’re getting away with it right now. Don’t get me wrong, we did a lot of things to come back. We’ve (just) got to be honest with how we’re playing. We know we’ve got more.”
Stoll was also realistic about assessing his team’s chances at a championship even with a 2-0 lead, saying that they’ll have to play even better hockey than they have been in order to win the title.
“We never expected this to be an easy series or a short series,” he said. “It’s going to be a long series. It’s going to be a very tough series. We just have got to keep pushing and throw our best game at them in Game 3. We have to go into MSG and have a simple, smart, physical road game, grind it out again, (and) do whatever it takes to win a game.”