The Los Angeles Kings had to come from behind once again in this postseason after surrendering two early goals, but just like they've done on numerous other occasions they managed to escape Staples Center on Wednesday night with a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Kings will look to take a 2-0 lead in the series on Saturday afternoon, but before we get into breaking down that game, here were our Three Stars of the contest.
Third Star: Justin Williams
Williams has been lauded for his prowess in Game 7s in recent weeks, but it didn't seem to matter which game he was playing in on Wednesday, as he picked up the overtime game winner and added an assist in the Kings' victory.
Williams' assist in the game was just as notable as his goal would end up being. After receiving a stretch pass from Kyle Clifford, Williams broke into the offensive zone, but he was massively outnumbered by Rangers skaters. Seeing this, Williams turned back toward the blue line to buy a bit of time, and he ended up finding a streaking Drew Doughty as the trailer. Doughty ended up scoring on the play to tie things up.
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On his game-winning play, Williams teamed up with Mike Richards to end the game and give the Kings the series lead. Richards got things started by pressuring the Rangers' puck carriers in the defensive zone, and ultimately he forced a turnover by Dan Girardi. Seeing this play developing, Williams moved into open ice in the slot, and when Richards found him with a pass, the sniper connected on a shot that beat Henrik Lundqvist to end the contest.
It was a great all-around play by both guys on the ice, and it's that kind of depth production that gives the Kings an advantage in the series.
Second Star: Kyle Clifford
Clifford didn't get off to a great start in the game, committing a few turnovers that led to Rangers' scoring chances, but he definitely finished off on a high note, picking up a goal and an assist in just 9:03 of ice time.
Clifford's goal came late in the first period with his team down 2-0. Jeff Carter did a lot of the dirty work on the play, back-checking aggressively and forcing a turnover, but it was Clifford that added his skill into the mix, lifting a shot from just inside the goal line over Lundqvist and into the top corner of the net to get his team on the board.
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Clifford also had a solid pass up to Williams in the neutral zone in the second period of the game that ultimately led to Doughty's goal, but it was his ability to bounce back from a shaky start and get his team on the board that really set him apart in this one.
First Star: Drew Doughty
Throughout the playoffs, the Kings have been able to get their offense going when Doughty is more assertive on that side of the puck, and that was definitely the case on Wednesday night when he scored the game-tying goal in the second period of the contest.
While the play by Williams to set up the goal was really smart, the play by Doughty was downright spectacular. Catching the puck in stride at the blue line, Doughty flipped it between his own legs on the rush, deked around another defender, and drove hard to the net. He forced a shot in between Lundqvist's arm and chest protector and into the goal, tying the game and sending the Staples Center crowd into a frenzy.
It was a tremendous individual play to cap off an excellent transition sequence, and it was definitely a kickstarter for the tremendous Kings offensive dominance through the latter stages of the game.