New York Rangers: Los Angeles Kings

NYC mayor sings 'I Love L.A.' on Kimmel

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17

Rapid Reaction: Kings 3, Rangers 2 (2OT)

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14

LOS ANGELES -- And what a way to do it. In one of the most breathtaking, heart-pounding stretches of playoff hockey this spring (maybe ever), the Kings finally ended it in double overtime on Alec Martinez’s Cup-clinching goal and knocked off the New York Rangers 3-2 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals to win the club’s second championship in three years.

The resilient Kings, who rallied back from 2-0 holes in both Games 1 and 2, erased a 2-1 deficit in the third period with ex-Ranger Marian Gaborik’s huge game-tying goal at 7:56 of the third period before Martinez won the game with his Cup-clinching goal with 5:17 to play in the second overtime period. The first overtime period didn’t lack for drama either, with both teams just inches away from ending it on their respective ends. Ryan McDonagh hit a post. Tyler Toffoli hit a crossbar. There was no time to even breathe.

The Kings can now exhale and soak in the elation emanating from a building just buzzing with excitement. Meanwhile, the Rangers must make a cross-country trip utterly heartbroken.

The Rangers' magical postseason run came to an abrupt end with Martinez’s winner, a gut-wrenching goal that the Blueshirts will surely replay in their minds over and over this summer.

The Rangers were able to avoid being swept on home ice with a 2-1 win in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. But they couldn’t stop a determined Kings squad in their own building.

It’s going to be a long summer for the Rangers. But for the Kings, this party is just getting started.

Payback time: Marian Gaborik's stunning spring continued Friday night when the ex-Ranger notched the tying goal against his former team in the third period. With Mats Zuccarello in the box for tripping, Gaborik scored just 17 seconds into the power play to knot the score at 2 at 7:56 of the final frame. The trade-deadline acquisition, who was moved by the Rangers at the deadline of the previous season, leads the NHL with 14 playoff goals. That sort of production is not lost on Rangers fans, especially considering Rick Nash was the marquee player brought in to provide the sort of game-breaking ability the club felt Gaborik lacked. Nash has scored only three playoff goals this postseason and has been held off the scoresheet for six straight games, leading some to wonder if he isn’t long for Broadway as well.

Power surge: In the hours before Game 5, coach Alain Vigneault was asked about any personnel changes he planned to make for the team’s power-play. But despite the fact that the Rangers entered the game 1-for-17 on the man-advantage in the first four games of the series, he expressed confidence in the group. That conviction paid dividends in the second period, when a pretty passing sequence allowed Chris Kreider an easy goal in front to tie the game 1-1 at 15:37.

Special teams edge: The Rangers’ special teams delivered another score in the second period, with Brian Boyle’s terrific shorthanded goal that gave the Blueshirts a 2-1 lead with less than 30 seconds left in the period. Carl Hagelin made a terrific hustle play to chase down the puck and dish to Boyle, who sniped a shot into the far corner for his third goal of the playoffs. Both Hagelin and Boyle have been two of the Rangers’ best penalty-killers this spring. The hulking, 6-foot-7, 244-pound Boyle is set to become an unrestricted free agent this July, and he’s already making a strong case for himself, should the Rangers fail to re-sign him. The gritty forward always seems to pick up his game during the postseason, and this spring has been no different.

Mr. Game 7: Adding to his laundry list of timely goals for the Kings, winger Justin Williams scored another clutch goal in Game 5 for Los Angeles and got the club on the board at 6:04 of the first period. The 32-year-old Cobourg, Ontario, native buried a rebound in the opening frame to ignite the crowd at Staples Center. Williams has been absolutely essential to the Kings’ success this spring, with nine goals and 25 points in 26 playoff games and 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in the past seven games.

W2W4: Rangers at Kings, Game 5

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13

LOS ANGELES -- The New York Rangers avoided being swept on home ice with a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night in Game 4, but they were lucky to leave Madison Square Garden with a victory, and they know it. Even Rangers forward Derick Brassard said Thursday that the team "didn’t deserve to win" given their poor play, particularly in the third period. Luckily for the Blueshirts, they were carried by a sensational 40-save performance from goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stole the game outright against a dominant Kings team seeking its second Stanley Cup championship in three years. Now the Kings have the chance to lift the iconic trophy on home ice Friday, as they host the Rangers in Game 5 at Staples Center. Will they emerge victorious? Or will the Rangers live to play another day?

Pressure building: Prior to Game 4, Kings veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell said his team didn’t want to give the Rangers “any confidence, whatsoever,” so you have to wonder if securing a win in Game 4 allowed New York to restore hope that this may be a series yet. Of course, the Kings know well that a 3-0 deficit is not impossible to recover from, because they surmounted the same daunting hole against the San Jose Sharks less than two months ago in the first round. The Rangers have also already erased a 3-1 series deficit, in their second-round set against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Perhaps Wednesday’s win was simply delaying the inevitable -- another championship for this Kings squad -- but according to Lundqvist yesterday, the Rangers feel that if they can sneak out with a win Friday and bring the series back to New York, the pressure will then shift entirely to L.A.

Demoted: Veteran center Brad Richards, who has also earned the reputation as the de facto captain of this Rangers team, was demoted to the fourth line Wednesday night in the wake of his disappointing play this series. The 34-year-old has been held off the score sheet in six straight games and has seen his ice time diminish as a result. He is, however, still treated as a mainstay on the team’s first power-play unit. All this raises the obvious question about what will happen with the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner once the season ends, with a potential compliance buyout looming. The Rangers must act quickly on the decision; they have a small window between 48 hours after the Stanley Cup finals and June 30 to make their choice on whether he remains in New York or not.

Territorial edge: If the Kings can pick up where they left off in the third period of Wednesday’s game, they will be in good shape, considering they dominated the Rangers in the final frame. L.A. outshot the Rangers 15-1 in the third period, though Lundqvist was resolute while under siege. A relentless Kings forecheck gave the Blueshirts trouble coming out of their own zone cleanly. The Kings gave them fits through the neutral zone, too. But the Rangers have one huge asset working in their favor heading into Friday’s action: Lundqvist has been insanely good when facing elimination. In the past eight games in which his team was facing elimination, Lundqvist is 8-0 with a 0.99 goals against average and a .968 save percentage. Can he keep that record pristine Friday night? Not if the Kings have anything to say about it.

Projected lines:


Carl Hagelin-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
Chris Kreider-Dominic MooreMartin St. Louis
Benoit Pouliot–Brassard–Mats Zuccarello
Richards-Brian Boyle-Derek Dorsett

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
John MooreKevin Klein


Marian Gaborik-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown
Tanner Pearson-Jeff Carter-Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King-Jarret Stoll-Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford-Mike Richards-Trevor Lewis

Jake Muzzin-Drew Doughty
Mitchell-Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez-Matt Greene/Robyn Regehr
Jonathan Quick

Once again, Lundqvist answers the call

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12

NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist arrived at his own postgame news conference fashionably late. With defenseman Anton Stralman fielding questions at the dais, originally intended for both of them, Lundqvist finally arrived to meet the media through a side door, though he stood off to the side for a few moments and patiently waited for his teammate to finish.

That was the only portion of Wednesday night in which Lundqvist was waiting in the wings.

Every other moment, the 32-year-old netminder was center stage.

[+] EnlargeHenrik Lundqvist
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIHenrik Lundqvist amassed 40 saves to prevent the Kings from hoisting the Stanley Cup after Game 4.
Lundqvist delivered a sublime 40-save performance in the New York Rangers' 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings, staving off a Stanley Cup finals sweep on home ice in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.

Anything short of what was an absolutely stunning effort would have ended with a loss. The Rangers’ season would have been over. They would have gone down as the first team to be swept in the finals since 1998. The Kings would have lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup in their building.

The mere possibility of that last scenario left “The King” feeling ill.

“Just the thought of it made me," Lundqvist said, pausing and shaking his head in utter relief, “sick.”

Lundqvist finally had the game everyone had been waiting for and what people had anticipated when he was deemed the superior goaltender heading into the series. He stole a game for the Rangers when they were overwhelmingly outplayed by the Kings.

He had no margin for error, either. Not after he surrendered a breakaway goal to Dustin Brown in the second period, a goal that was a result of an unlucky break for the Rangers and, subsequently, six dekes from the Kings captain.

After the sort of unfortunate “puck luck” and bad bounces the Rangers bemoaned after falling behind 3-0 in the series, Lundqvist couldn’t help but think again that the hockey gods were conspiring against them.

“The first thought was, here we go again,” Lundqvist said.

But Wednesday’s game was different, maybe because the former Vezina Trophy winner knew that he could yield nothing after that. That desperation was evident when he made an unbelievable sprawling stop to seal the post and rob Jeff Carter on a breakaway with his left pad. It was abundantly clear when he remained composed despite two frenzied goal-mouth scrambles in the final minutes of the game.

He held the fort while the Rangers were outshot 15-1 in the final frame, with his own teammates failing to register a single shot until almost 13 minutes into play.

“He’s been our best player throughout the whole playoffs, our most consistent player,” said defenseman Dan Girardi, whose stick broke on the Kings’ lone goal of the night. “When we were having some troubles in our own end, he was there to make the huge saves for us, and that’s what we needed tonight.”

Lundqvist still probably needs his own Stanley Cup championship before he is inducted into the pantheon of Rangers icons, but he is working diligently to bolster his credentials. His prowess in elimination games is remarkable. He has posted an 8-0 record with a .99 goals-against average and .968 save percentage in the past eight games when facing elimination.

How is that for clutch?

But no flinching for Lundqvist. Not with the team’s fate on the line. He still remembers the gut-wrenching feeling he felt two years ago, when the Rangers’ season ended with Lundqvist on his knees and rookie Adam Henrique bounding across the ice in celebration after the New Jersey Devils' series-sealing win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2012.

Lundqvist doesn’t want that feeling again. He knows how long it lasts.

“One mistake and the season is over,” he said. “You’re definitely aware of that.”

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 2, Kings 1

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
NEW YORK -- No brooms necessary at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

Nope, the New York Rangers salvaged some pride and eked out a win against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, avoiding a sweep and sending the series back to L.A. with their 2-1 victory.

Even though the Blueshirts were outplayed through large stretches in Wednesday’s game, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was at his very best, delivering a phenomenal 40-save performance when the Rangers needed it most.

Falling behind 2-0 for the third time this series, the Kings still dominated and outpossessed the Rangers by a wide margin in Game 4, but Lundqvist unilaterally prevented L.A. from taking the Cup home with them on their flight back to California.

Lundqvist, who was bested by Kings netminder Jonathan Quick in Game 3, made one particularly outstanding save, robbing Jeff Carter on a solo breakaway in the second period to preserve a precarious one-goal lead.

The Kings were relentless in peppering the King himself in the third period -- the Rangers did not register a single shot on goal for almost 13 minutes -- but the steady Swede wasn’t ready for the Rangers' summer to begin. Two frenzied, goal-mouth scrambles in the final minutes of the game had Rangers fans biting their nails, but Lundqvist had a little help from Derek Stepan with the puck sitting on the goal line with just more than a minute left. Stepan batted it out of the crease to stop L.A. from tying it up.

The Rangers avoided elimination and now find themselves trailing 3-1, a difficult task but far from impossible. Earlier this spring, the Rangers erased a 3-1 series deficit in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Rough series: Defenseman Dan Girardi is having a series he’d like to forget, with a few particularly costly blunders that have ended up in the Rangers’ net. The 30-year-old blueliner, the goat in the Rangers' Game 1 loss in L.A., made one glaring gaffe in the second period that gave the Kings bench new life. Girardi gave the puck away at the blue line (it was not immediately clear whether his stick broke or not) and Kings captain Dustin Brown made a beautiful move, deking backhand to forehand six times, to beat Lundqvist on a breakaway and cut the Rangers' lead in half to 2-1.

First strike: It wasn’t technically a power-play goal, but Benoit Pouliot’s expert redirection of John Moore’s shot at 7:25 gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first period just as Willie Mitchell’s high-sticking penalty expired. Heading into Wednesday’s action, the Rangers were 1-for-14 on the man advantage after being blanked on six power-play attempts in Game 2 Monday night. Pouliot’s goal was his fifth of the postseason, and he remains one of the team’s most enticing unrestricted free agents set to hit the market July 1. Despite his propensity for taking ill-advised, offensive-zone penalties, Pouliot has had an impressive regular and postseason. Both he and defenseman Anton Stralman appear to be setting themselves up for a nice payday soon.

Shaking things up: After sustaining three straight losses to the Kings, coach Alain Vigneault opted to shake up his lineup with a few changes Wednesday night. The most notable was his decision to demote veteran center, and de facto captain, Brad Richards to fourth-line duty while using Dominic Moore on a line with Chris Kreider and Martin St. Louis. Carl Hagelin earned himself a promotion to the first line with Stepan and Rick Nash. Vigneault also elected to scratch winger Daniel Carcillo, who is now eligible to play after serving a six-game suspension incurred in the Eastern Conference finals. Though Carcillo took pregame warm-ups, gritty fourth-liner Derek Dorsett remained in the lineup instead.

Kings' Brown dreaming of Cup celebration

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
NEW YORK -- The Stanley Cup will be inside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

The Los Angeles Kings will be able to hoist it with a victory in Game 4.

“I think it’s fair to say anybody who is not thinking about that going into the next game is not being honest,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said Tuesday. “At the same time, we’ve had the ability not to look too far ahead.

[+] EnlargeDustin Brown
Scott Levy/NHLI/Getty ImagesDustin Brown says it's natural to think about lifting the Stanley Cup at this stage.
"We’ve also had the experience of being through this same exact situation, being up 3-0, so we need to lean on each other and that experience and be focused and ready to go.”

No team has completed a Stanley Cup finals sweep since 1998.

“Everyone’s talking about a 3-0 lead, but you need four,” center Jarret Stoll told reporters Wednesday. "That’s what it’s all about and it’s always the hardest to get, so we gotta make sure we’re ready to go tonight.

“Guys are in a good place. Everybody’s confident. We just gotta make sure we’re playing our game, our style, our way. We gotta play a good game to beat these guys. They’re gonna have their best game tonight, and we have to have ours to be in it and go where we wanna go.”

The Kings, who became the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series in the first round against the San Jose Sharks, want to eliminate the Rangers on Wednesday night.

“You don’t want to give them any confidence whatsoever,” defenseman Willie Mitchell said.

The Kings have plenty of Conn Smythe candidates, including center Anze Kopitar (5 goals, 21 assists in the playoffs), center Jeff Carter (10-14), right winger Justin Williams (8-16), right winger Marian Gaborik (13-8) and defenseman Drew Doughty (5-12).

“That’s an award that a lot of NHLers obviously aspire to have,” Williams said Tuesday. “But at the same time, when you’re presented with it, I think a lot of guys just want to put it aside and look to the big jug. That’s pretty much how I can explain it.

“To be even mentioned with these big guys in that conversation is awesome. But, hey, the big one is what matters. God, I want to taste it again.”

W2W4: Rangers vs. Kings, Game 4

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11

NEW YORK -- When the puck drops on Game 4 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Stanley Cup will be in the building, ready for the taking in the event of a Los Angeles Kings victory. It’s up to the New York Rangers, trailing 3-0 in the series, to stave off a sweep and salvage some pride.

The Kings are seeking their second Stanley Cup championship in the matter of three years while the Rangers are making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals in two decades. Experience has favored Los Angeles already this series, with the comeback Kings rallying from behind to knock off the Blueshirts in the first two games of the best-of-seven set. The Rangers are coming off Monday’s demoralizing 3-0 blanking at the hands of goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was sensational in recording his second shutout of the postseason. With Quick playing the type of lights-out hockey that earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy just two years ago and the Kings drooling over an opportunity to close out the series, the Rangers have to muster nothing short of their absolute best or their summer begins Thursday.

Quick-solver: The Rangers had no answer for the superb, stingy play of Quick on Monday, when he made 32 stops to hold New York scoreless. Though many pundits touted Henrik Lundqvist as the superior goaltender in this matchup, Quick has outplayed his Swedish counterpart through the first three games. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last time Lundqvist has allowed 11 goals over the first three games of a series was in 2008 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a series the Rangers lost in five games.

Down and out: Perhaps the most striking thing in the aftermath of the Rangers' 3-0 loss Monday was how despondent and downtrodden the team seemed the following morning. Brad Richards said it was "impossible to be upbeat" and the entire team made no effort to conceal just how bad they were smarting from the most recent loss. Can they shake this funk? The mood was much more focused and optimistic Wednesday morning after the team's optional skate, but perhaps Tuesday was a glimpse into the team's fragile psyche and its crushing sense of frustration with how this series has gone.

Making changes: It is not yet immediately clear whether he will be back in the Rangers lineup Wednesday, but gritty winger Daniel Carcillo is eligible to return from suspension in Game 4. Carcillo was originally slapped with a 10-game ban for striking an official during the team's third-round series against the Montreal Canadiens, though that suspension was later reduced to six games. Carcillo said he did not know whether he will play, but hopes to provide some jump if called upon: "Obviously we need a good effort tonight. It's do or die."

Projected lines:

New York Rangers:

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards–Martin St. Louis
Benoit PouliotDerick BrassardMats Zuccarello
Brian Boyle-Dominic Moore-Derek Dorsett/Carcillo

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
John MooreKevin Klein

Los Angeles Kings:

Marian Gaborik-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown
Tanner Pearson-Jeff Carter-Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King-Jarret Stoll-Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford-Mike Richards-Trevor Lewis

Jake Muzzin-Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell-Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez-Matt Greene/ Robyn Regehr

Dejected Rangers vow to go out swinging

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10

NEW YORK -- Maybe it was to serve as a reminder of what they are still playing for heading into Game 4. Maybe it was simply an oversight, a function of a bleary-eyed staff misplacing a rug in the aftermath of yet another demoralizing loss.

The New York Rangers’ logo was left uncovered Tuesday, spanning a wide swath of their immaculate dressing room floor.

And when people began trampling over the pristine patch of carpet -- a forbidden act among hockey purists -- there wasn’t even a forceful, threatening warning to stay off (this is the norm), just one respectful plea.

Is this the way the Rangers will go out? Without putting up a fight?

[+] EnlargeDerick Brassard
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesThe Rangers must get back on their feet after a demoralizing Game 3 loss Monday.
When players dutifully faced the media Tuesday afternoon in the wake of a 3-0 shutout loss in Game 3 the night before -- a defeat that leaves them trailing 3-0 in their Stanley Cup finals series against the Los Angeles Kings -- optimism was in short supply.

Sure, players talked about the belief that remains, the adversity already vanquished in what has been an emotional spring. But platitudes and clichés aside, it wasn’t hard to discern how the Rangers were feeling.

It was evident on their faces, their measured words, their slightly slumping shoulders. Despondent. Sullen. Defeated.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” de facto captain Brad Richards said. “It’s pretty much impossible to be upbeat.”

Richards was only saying what was abundantly clear. The sense of regret, frustration, anger even, was hanging thick in the air Tuesday. The team is tired, frustrated and staring at a daunting task ahead. They are in no mood for positivity and they will make no apologies about that.

“We’re down 3-0. We’re all lacking sleep. This is tough,” said an agitated coach Alain Vigneault. “Excuse us if today we’re not real cheery. But tomorrow, I can tell you we’re going to show up.”

No griping about puck luck or bad bounces. No excuses, period. Henrik Lundqvist has to play lights-out. Rick Nash has to finish. Richards has to lead, not just off the ice, but on it as well.

The Rangers will have to show up and more Wednesday against a Kings team waiting and willing to pounce, ready to shove their second Stanley Cup championship in three years down the Blueshirts' throats. No doubt the Kings can sense the fragility in the opposing dressing room. They can understand it, too, considering seven weeks ago the Kings were in the same position, trailing the San Jose Sharks 3-0 in their first-round series.

So they will show no mercy to the battered Blueshirts, and the Rangers have to be similarly unwilling to budge.

“We don’t want to end our season losing a game at home and give the Stanley Cup to their team,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “It’s not going to happen that way.”

The Rangers will have to remember that logo, what it means and what it represents, when they don the sweater in Game 4 and try to avoid a sweep at the Kings' hands on home ice. No matter how surprising and successful this run has been for the team, a sweep carries both stigma and shame. It would cast a dark shadow over what has otherwise been a sensational, inspiring postseason.

Now, it must come down to nothing more than pride. Pride in the logo, pride in their performance, pride in one another.

“We definitely don’t want to get swept in the Stanley Cup finals, and we don’t want to lose in front of our home fans, either,” said defenseman Dan Girardi. “That’s not the way we want to go out.”

NEW YORK -- There is no consolation when you’re losing, no silver lining when you are just one game shy of being swept.

So forget that Rick Nash was as energetic and engaged as he has been this entire postseason, driving the net with purpose and passion in a display that was such a sharp contrast from earlier this spring.

He has been held off the scoresheet now for four straight games -- and the Rangers have lost three of those. There is no comfort in that for the proud 29-year-old winger, who has shouldered significant pressure for the Blueshirts all playoffs long.

[+] EnlargeNash
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsRich Nash's increased aggression in Game 3 failed to pay off in points for the $7.8 million man.
“I can’t be satisfied when we’re losing,” Nash said. “Right now, chances aren’t good enough. They’ve got to be going in, we’ve got to be helping the team win.”

Nash knows this feeling too well. He experienced the nadir of his Rangers tenure earlier this postseason, when he was booed for his inability to score during the second round. He was held without a goal in the first two seven-game series before finally snapping the lengthy drought in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Montreal Canadiens. He finished with three goals that series.

Nash has failed to record a point in the first three games against the Kings, and it seems to be the familiar scapegoat role again for the $7.8 million man. But here’s the thing: He’s actually playing good hockey. He has had jump. He has played physical. He has skated with abandon, barreling into Kings netminder Jonathan Quick at the end of the second period -- notable if only because he seemed reluctant to crash the crease in the first two rounds of play.

He even earned his way back on the power play, ending what has been a head-scratching, borderline-inexplicable absence from the man-advantage, in which he finished with 2:18 of ice time Monday night.

“I liked his effort level tonight. He battled real hard like he’s done through the playoffs for us. Doesn’t have a lot to show for it, but he’s competing hard,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “I just wanted to see if we couldn't throw a different look at them.”

Ultimately, it did not make a difference. The Rangers got some good looks, but Quick was a wall en route to posting his second shutout of the postseason. New York was blanked on all six man-up attempts.

But, why wasn’t Nash seen as a viable option before the fourth power-play of the night? Isn’t that the whole reason the Rangers traded for the two-time 40-goal scorer? To be the difference-maker in these sorts of games?

“The groups that they had were clicking. They gained some chemistry with each other, and they obviously couldn’t get the job done tonight, so [associate coach Scott Arniel] switched things up,” Nash said of his appearance.

The power play needs to be better. Nash needs to be better. Everything needs to improve if the Rangers want to salvage some pride and try to make this still a series. Heading into Game 3, the Rangers assuaged their frustration by taking solace in the fact that they were only a few bounces removed from being up 2-0 themselves. That’s a harder argument to make after Monday night, even if their puck luck remains woeful.

“Yeah, I think you have to work for your breaks,” Nash said. “We’ve got to work for our luck. Tonight, we made mistakes and it ended up in the back of our net.”

There is no longer room for mistakes, no margin of error with a Stanley Cup championship that hangs in the balance. Lord Stanley’s cup will be in the building on Wednesday, and it’s up to Nash and the Rangers to prevent the Kings from escorting it back to Los Angeles.

“For me, I think it just comes down to one win. We’ve just got to worry about this next game. We can’t worry about the big picture right now,” Nash said. “We’ve just got to worry about the next game.”

It’s not about individual performances now -- for Nash or anyone else. It’s about the collective effort. It’s about preserving belief.

“We gotta believe,” forward Mats Zuccarello said. “We’ve done it before. It’s been done before. Harder things have been achieved.”

LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle did not hold back in the wake of the New York Rangers’ 5-4 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals Saturday night, lashing out at the notion that the Rangers are underdogs in a series that is now 2-0 in favor of L.A. with the series shifting back to New York.

“I don’t give a s--- about underdogs. That’s ridiculous. Give me a break,” the rugged fourth-line forward said after the game, seething. “We’re not. We’re here, too. We’re a good team. And we can’t take any solace [in having played two close games], because we lost.”

Though the Kings entered the finals as heavy favorites, champions of what many feel to be a superior Western Conference, they have not held a lead for a single moment throughout the first two games of the series. And yet they lead 2-0 heading into Game 3 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

The Rangers didn’t make it this far to simply feel satisfied with being there for the spectacle of it all. They harbor the belief that they can compete with the big, physical Kings, and the first two games have shown just that. The Rangers have dominated stretches of play, building 2-0 leads in consecutive games, though their inability to close out their opponent has them in a daunting hole as they head back to the East Coast to defend home ice.

“We came here to win games. It doesn’t matter how the hell we do it, we have to win the game,” Boyle said. “If you don’t win the game, you didn’t do what you came to do, and that’s the worst feeling there is.”

Unlike Game 1, in which the Rangers unraveled after the Kings erased a two-goal deficit, the Blueshirts played a hard, purposeful hockey game Saturday night. Mats Zuccarello was buzzing, Rick Nash played with passion and physicality. Chris Kreider had a pair of glorious chances in overtime.

Still, they have nothing to show for it.

Part of that is a testament to the plucky Kings, who have outlasted their opponents in three consecutive seven-game series en route to their second Stanley Cup finals appearance in three years. The Kings have experience in abundance when it comes to this time of year. That has shown in their resolve.

Rallying to recover from deficits of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2, the Kings became the first team in NHL history to win three straight playoff games when trailing by two goals.

“They've been in three Game 7s and come out on top. They were Stanley Cup champions a couple years ago. They know what it takes to win,” defenseman Dan Girardi said after the game. “They're getting those good bounces, those good plays in front. We're just going to have to find a way to, when we have the lead, to hold on to it, especially against a team like this. We know they're going to be coming. They have all that experience over there, and we need to be ready for that.”

Now, it’s up to the Rangers to be the comeback kids. They made a stunning turnaround in their second-round series to surmount a 3-1 series deficit and knock off the favored Pittsburgh Penguins. Can they forget the past two games and muster that magic again?

“You don't have a choice,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “You have to move on.”
LOS ANGELES -- There will certainly be time over the next two days for Chris Kreider to rue that pair of glorious chances in the first overtime period that he just could not bury.

A cross-country flight back to New York, for example, will provide ample opportunity for him to mull them over. He could spent hours replaying those shots, second-guessing his approach, staring down Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick from within the recesses of his memory.

The 23-year-old forward vowed to avoid that temptation. He doesn’t want those regrets to linger, frustration to fester as he readies himself for Game 3 on Monday. Following the New York Rangers’ 5-4 double-overtime loss in Game 2 Saturday night, there are desperate times ahead for him and his teammates, who now face a daunting task ahead while in a 2-0 hole as the series shifting back home.

[+] EnlargeChris Kreider
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsChris Kreider had chances to win Game 2 in overtime.
“Nope,” Kreider responded, when asked if those chances will be difficult for him to digest in the next 48 hours. “They’re difficult to think about 20 to 30 minutes after the game, but on to the next one.”

In another heart-racing, white-knuckled ending to an already wild and unpredictable game, the Kings and Rangers traded prime scoring chances in overtime, testing the blood pressure of just about everyone watching.

Kreider, whose speed, size and strength has added a dangerous dynamic to the Rangers' offense this entire spring, had arguably the best of the first overtime period, when he faced Quick on a breakaway at 16:22 of the frame.

It originally looked like Kreider missed wide left, but Quick actually got a piece of the shot.

“He stopped it. Tried to go low [blocker]. Probably should've gone high [blocker]. It was a good save by him,” Kreider said. “You've got to finish there. There's nothing else to say."

Kreider had three shots total in the first overtime frame, one that followed a sloppy yet entertaining 60 minutes of regulation during which the Rangers saw another two-goal lead disappear. Neither Quick nor Henrik Lundqvist yielded anything in the first overtime period, but the Kings prevailed in the second one with a tip in front from Kings captain Dustin Brown.

“I don’t think anything changes. I think a couple crazy bounces. A couple crazy plays. Stuff goes in for them. Stuff didn’t go in for us,” Kreider said. “That’s hockey. It’s not always fair.”

His teammate Carl Hagelin can empathize with how Kreider must be feeling right now. The speedy winger had a similarly spectacular chance to end the game in the final minute of regulation in Game 1 on a breakaway, but a rolling puck prevented him from putting the game away and the Rangers lost on a bad bounce and defensive-zone gaffe that resulted in Justin Williams’ overtime winner.

“It’s never fun. It’s always good when you’re creating chances, but in games like this when it’s so close you want to make sure to score on the chances. It’s nothing you can think about too much. You’ve got to just refocus and try to get a goal in the next game,” Hagelin said.

Kreider, who picked up a secondary assist on Martin St. Louis’ power-play goal in the second period, has been a key contributor for the Rangers’ deep run this spring. The quintessential power forward has chipped in with four goals and seven assists, and has been an impactful net front presence, particularly on the power play.

The Rangers can’t afford for him to dwell on a few missed chances Saturday night. They need him back at it Monday when the Blueshirts host the Kings at Madison Square Garden.

“He’ll come back strong in Game 3,” said defenseman Anton Stralman, who was brooding over his own missed scoring opportunity in overtime as he slunk back in his dressing room stall. “He works hard. He’s fast. It’s always tough when you can’t score. I had a great chance in overtime, so that’s obviously bothering me right now. It’s a matter of putting that behind us and focusing on the next game.”

Kreider plans on moving past it just as swiftly as he dissected Saturday’s dispiriting defeat.

“We blew another two-goal lead. We lost in overtime. I had two Grade-A opportunities and didn't finish, so I have to execute better,” he said. “ I think that's my takeaway, ultimately."
LOS ANGELES -- Just call them the Comeback Kings.

For the second straight game, the Los Angeles Kings stunned the New York Rangers with a manic and frenzied come-from-behind victory, knocking off the Blueshirts with a 5-4 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead as both clubs head back to New York for Games 3 and 4. The Kings have not led in regulation at any point throughout the first two games of Stanley Cup finals, and yet they won both contests.

Kings captain Dustin Brown scored the winning goal, snapping a 4-4 draw in double overtime to end what was a wildly entertaining playoff match that spanned more than four hours and featured a little bit of everything.

The Rangers, who squandered a 2-0 lead in Game 1 Wednesday night, held another 2-0 lead Saturday, a 3-1 and 4-2 advantage as well, but they couldn’t shut the door on the feisty Kings.

The Kings refused to go quietly despite staring down a 4-2 deficit in the third period, but their third goal did not come without a bit of the controversy.

Dwight King tipped one in for a goal that ignited a plucky Kings squad intent on staging another comeback, but both defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Henrik Lundqvist were livid after the play, arguing with the nearest official about King’s contact with Lundqvist in the crease -- contact that they clearly felt impeded Lundqvist’s ability to make a save.

You could sense the Rangers start to unravel from there, with the Kings buzzing, the crowd getting into it, and the (dreadful) ice tilting in L.A.’s favor. So it was no surprise when leading playoff goal-scorer, and ex-Ranger Marian Gaborik tied the game at 7:36 with his 13th playoff goal this spring.

Rangers forward Chris Kreider has a pair of Grade-A chances in a enthralling overtime period, but couldn't find the back of the net.

Fast and furious: Just as they did in Game 1, the Kings made a big push in the second period. Los Angeles cut the Rangers’ 2-0 lead in half when Jarret Stoll buried the puck into an open net with Lundqvist down on his rear after making an initial save. Martin St. Louis continued his terrific spring, one-timing a shot past Jonathan Quick on the power-play to reclaim a two-goal Rangers lead -- his seventh goal of these playoffs. But when the Kings threatened again, pulling within a goal for the second time on Willie Mitchell’s man-up marker at 14:39, the Rangers made sure to snuff out the surge quickly. The Blueshirts responded in just 11 seconds with a goal from Derick Brassard to take a 4-2 lead into the third period. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that 11-second span was the quickest between two goals scored in a Stanley Cup finals game in 67 years.

Déjà vu: Stop me if this sounds familiar: Kings look sloppy with the puck (granted, the ice also appeared horrendous) and an opportunistic Rangers squad build a 2-0 first-period lead. The Rangers got on the board with defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s hard slapper from the left point at 10:48 of the first, a goal that was created by hard forechecking pressure that forced Game 1 hero Justin Williams to turn the puck over deep in his own zone. A flubbed pass from defenseman Matt Greene later in the period resulted in a sequence of scoring chances for New York that was capped by Mats Zuccarello’s rebound goal at the right post with 7:17 remaining in the period. The Rangers took a two-goal lead in Game 1, but the Kings came charging back for a 3-2 overtime win.

Surprising scratch: Though Kings coach Darryl Sutter said veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr would “probably play” and the 34-year-old himself admitted he was ready to return to the lineup after missing more than a month with a knee injury, Regehr was scratched for the second straight game this series. Though he took part in the pregame warmups, Greene remained in the starting lineup instead. Meanwhile, John Moore returned to bolster the Rangers’ back end after serving a two-game suspension for his hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Dale Weise in the Eastern Conference finals.

W2W4: Rangers at Kings, Game 2

June, 7, 2014
Jun 7
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings took Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, beating the New York Rangers in a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory sealed by clutch performer Justin Williams' winning goal Wednesday night at Staples Center. Now, with two days to bask in their series-opening victory, the Kings aim to hold off a Blueshirts squad that came out buzzing in the first period. Meanwhile, the Rangers hope to tie the series 1-1 and give the hometown Kings all they can handle Saturday night before the best-of-seven set shifts back to New York. If there was a game for the Rangers to steal, Wednesday night seemed like the perfect opportunity. They’ll anticipate an even sharper Kings team in Game 2 after L.A. vowed to clean up some aspects in their game, despite their Game 1 win.

Marquee matchup: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault called the Kings the best opponent the Rangers have faced thus far, and it was evident Wednesday night that they have earned that top billing. Despite a sloppy opening frame, in which they were reckless with the puck and fell behind 2-0, the Kings recovered in the final 40 minutes, exploiting their speed, size and skill to rally for the victory. The Kings will certainly put a point of emphasis on limiting turnovers in Game 2, while the Rangers need to step up their play in pretty much every facet. In fact, Vigneault called out his team in the wake of Wednesday’s loss and challenged them to bring their "A" game Saturday night. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 40 saves even though he was saddled with the loss, put his best on display in Game 1. Will his teammates heed that message and follow suit in Game 2?

Robyn returns: Veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr, who has missed more than a month sitting out with a knee injury, is expected to return to the lineup for the Kings on Saturday night. The 34-year-old blueliner, who suffered the injury during the team’s second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks, was medically cleared to play before Game 1, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter erred on the side of caution in reinserting him into the lineup. Regehr told reporters Friday he feels ready to play, but that it will be a coach’s decision.

Back from ban: With Regehr returning to reinforce the Kings' blue line, 23-year-old defenseman John Moore is expected to draw back into the Rangers' lineup after serving a two-game suspension for his hit on Dale Weise in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Montreal Canadiens. Moore had a tough time watching the last pair of games from the press box and said he is "pumped" for the chance to play in the finals, a dream he has harbored since he was a young kid. Speaking of youngsters, 21-year-old J.T. Miller, who suffered a shoulder injury in Game 3 against the Habs, is now available should Vigneault choose to use him, though no immediate lineup changes at forward are anticipated for Game 2.

LOS ANGELES -- A lot of time has been devoted to dissecting how defenseman Dan Girardi felt in the wake of the New York Rangers’ overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1: He was devastated, obviously, because of his costly mistake that led to Justin Williams’ game-winning goal.

But there was someone else on his team feeling pretty awful himself, and for an entirely different reason.

Serving the last game of his two-game suspension for his hit against Montreal Canadiens forward Dale Weise in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, defenseman John Moore had to witness his team drop the series opener while feeling completely helpless.

“It was tough to watch up there. It was really hard,” Moore said after the Rangers’ practice Friday at Staples Center. “We had our chances. Unfortunately, the bounces went the other way, but we were right there. It could’ve gone either way.”

[+] EnlargeJohn Moore
Eric Bolte/USA TODAY SportsBack from suspension after this hit on Dale Weise, John Moore is eager to get his first crack at Stanley Cup finals hockey.
You could hear the eagerness right in his voice, the 23-year-old earnestly wishing there was something he could’ve done to tip the balance in the other direction. He’ll get that chance on Saturday, when he is expected to draw into the lineup for Game 2.

Moore practiced with partner Kevin Klein on the third defensive pairing Friday, with depth defenseman Raphael Diaz skating again with regular scratch Justin Falk. Both are pretty good signs that Moore will jump right back into his regular spot.

“I’m sure [the nerves are] going to be bumping right up until puck drop, but it’s the Stanley Cup, you dream about this your whole life,” Moore said. "If you can’t have fun with this, you’re in the wrong spot. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a kid and now I get the chance to do it.”

Though Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has been cagey about lineup decisions all throughout the playoffs, he indicated that he is planning to insert Moore back into the lineup. And considering he missed only a pair of games, conditioning is not a concern for the club in throwing him back into action.

“As far as him being ready, I know that if we need him, he will be. He works extremely hard. He's only missed two games,” Vigneault said. “How he's going to respond after being suspended, that question goes to him. I think he'll be fine. He's given us some real important minutes this year and I think he'll be fine.”

For the record, Moore doesn’t anticipate changing anything in his game just because of the two-game ban he incurred for his hit on Weise. The first-time offender does not have the reputation as a head-hunter or a dirty player, and he sees no reason to adapt his approach because of that isolated incident.

“I think all that other stuff, it happened, and I certainly don’t see that affecting the way I play. It’s unfortunate what happened, but it’s hockey first and foremost. I’ve played it my whole life. I don’t see what happened changing my style,” he said.

Just as they rallied around Girardi following the unfortunate bounce on Wednesday night, Moore’s teammates stood behind him as well after he was hit with the suspension. Knowing Moore is the type of player with a sensitive disposition, they wanted to assure him that he’ll move past the incident.

“John, he's a very good person. Not that other guys aren't, but he's the type of guy that it would affect, being suspended,” de facto captain Brad Richards explained. “But that's over with. He's excited now, that the suspension is over. But we talked about it briefly. That stuff happens. It's a play in hockey that he probably would have done something different in hindsight. He's able to play now. We'll move on. Hopefully he can come in and help.”

And if there was any positive to take from having been forced to watch from the press box as Williams sealed Game 1 with his overtime game winner, Moore came away, at the very least, with a nuanced scouting report on what the Kings bring to the table as an elite opponent.

“There wasn’t a lot of open ice out there, that’s for sure. They play really strong as a five-man unit. They came as advertised. The ice was hard to come by, the biggest thing with [the Kings] was, without the puck, you’ve got to work to be there, support the puck carrier. That’s certainly something I’m going to work on here,” he said.

But the tactics are secondary. The Stanley Cup finals are all about heart and energy and emotion. And Moore can’t wait to take part.

“I think at this time of year, the X’s and O’s are always important, but you’re playing for the Cup and it’s all coming from inside now. Sitting out and watching the game, it sucks,” Moore said. “You’re motivated. It’s really just a battle of will this time of year. I’m pumped to hopefully get the chance.”

Teammates: We've got Girardi's back

June, 5, 2014
Jun 5
Dan GirardiBruce Bennett/Getty ImagesThe good news for Girardi: He's likely to play better in Game 2.
LOS ANGELES -- With the New York Rangers posted up at a posh hotel right along the Pacific Ocean just a stone’s throw from the Santa Monica Pier, the players shouldn’t find it too hard to put some distance between themselves and a dispiriting loss in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.

The sun and sand should offer at least a brief respite from the disappointment of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings that was very much the Rangers' game to steal.

But defenseman Dan Girardi might have a harder time than most forgetting the final play that ultimately cost the Rangers in the series opener at Staples Center on Wednesday night.

It was just a simple bounce, the type that happens so many times throughout the course of a game. But this one came at the most inopportune moment possible. Game tied at 2. The Kings forechecking hard. Just a hop over Girardi’s stick that bungled what should have been a routine clearing attempt but instead forced him into scramble mode.

With the Kings bearing down and Girardi under duress, down on one knee even, he fired the puck toward Benoit Pouliot, but the winger had already taken off. Instead, Girardi fed it right to L.A.’s Mike Richards, who dished to Justin Williams in the slot.

Game over.

How many times will Girardi turn that one over in his head?

His teammates can empathize with what must be a torturous few days that lie ahead until the Rangers get back at it Saturday for Game 2.

In fact, Girardi’s defensive partner, Ryan McDonagh, remembers the feeling well, having endured a similarly devastating sequence in the playoffs last spring. During Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, McDonagh drew a delay of game penalty by sailing the puck over the glass, and the Capitals scored the winning goal on the ensuing power play.

McDonagh was despondent after that game, answering questions after the game dutifully but with tears in his eyes. His teammates rallied around him then. And they will do the same for Girardi.

“Our group believes so strongly in each other. We understand that wasn't the deciding factor in the game, ultimately. We could have done a lot more to help our chances,” McDonagh said during Thursday’s media availability at the team hotel in Santa Monica. “It's unfortunate that it happens to us at that point in the game. But he's a guy that has been through so many ups and downs in his career. We know he's going to bounce back and be a huge part of our Game 2 here.”

And one costly mistake will not mitigate Girardi’s critical importance to the Rangers’ team. The 30-year-old comprises the Rangers’ top defensive pairing with McDonagh, and he finished Wednesday’s match with a whopping 27:25 in ice time and a team-leading seven hits. His sound, steady defensive play has been vital as the team has neutralized some of the top lines from opponents all spring. Claude Giroux and his linemates in Round 1. Sidney Crosby & Co. in Round 2. Max Pacioretty's trio in Round 3.

For the Rangers to beat the Kings, or even to have a chance in this series, Girardi has to be resilient. Especially considering L.A.’s considerable depth down the middle.

“Dan is a huge part of our hockey club. I know that he's probably moved way past it and he's getting himself ready to play the next game,” center Derek Stepan said. “We've all been there, like Mac said. If there's a professional that can move away from it, it is Dan.”

McDonagh said he made sure to talk to Girardi right after the play after the game to reinforce that the loss wasn't on him.

Coach Alain Vigneault didn't sound particularly compelled to comfort Girardi. He knows that others are surrounding him with support and bolstering his morale.

“I haven't talked to him yet personally. I do know a couple of my assistants have. I do know that Dan's got great teammates. I'm sure that they've all talked to him,” Vigneault said. “It was a bounce. It was a bounce that unfortunately didn't work out. He couldn't put the handle on it. Stuff like that happens. You got to turn the page and move on.”