LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings sure have a flair for the dramatic, huh? For the second straight game L.A. wiped out a two-goal deficit, rallying to take Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals with a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Clutch performer Justin Williams was exactly that in the series opener, notching the game winner 4:36 into the overtime period to give the Kings a 1-0 series lead.
Though the Rangers dominated in the first 20 minutes of play, they were chasing the puck for the entire third period, outshot by the Kings 14-0 at one point more than midway through the final frame. The Rangers did not register a single shot on goal until there was just 8:17 remaining in the period.
Los Angeles pushed the play for the entire frame, but had nothing to show for it, even after it was awarded a critical power-play opportunity with less than two minutes in regulation. The final minute of the game delivered the type of high-octane, white-knuckle hockey that made the Western Conference finals so exciting, with both the Rangers and Kings trading chances in electric end-to-end action.
Then the legend of Williams, dubbed Mr. Game 7 for his timely goals, continued as he delivered to give the Kings the win.
Comeback kids: Was there ever really any doubt the Kings would come charging back on home ice? After falling behind 2-0, the comeback kids proved again that no lead is safe as they rattled off two of their own to knot the score in the second period. Kyle Clifford got the Kings on the board and Drew Doughty made a sensational move to beat Henrik Lundqvist and atone for a costly turnover earlier in the game that had resulted in the Rangers’ first goal. The Kings also erased a 2-0 deficit in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, rallying from behind to knock off the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in a thrilling overtime win Sunday.
Early lead: If the Rangers are going to make this a series, they will have to employ their speed against a big, heavy Kings squad and that’s exactly what they did in the first period. Both Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin capitalized on Kings' gaffes that resulted in breakaways, with Hagelin's short-handed goal at 15:03 giving the Blueshirts a 2-0 lead. Though the Kings looked gassed in the opening frame, they managed to cut the lead in half before the period was over on Clifford's first goal of the postseason -- a late marker that appeared to rejuvenate them heading into the second period.
Big red dog: The 23-year-old Clifford had a banner night for the Kings, and helped spark the club's comeback with his inspired play. Figuring in on both the first two goals (one goal, one assist), he also made a great hustle play in the second to prevent a goal, back checking with fury against the speedy Hagelin to break up a prime scoring play for the Rangers.
Backing up the backup: Goaltender Cam Talbot was not available to back up Lundqvist during Game 1, throwing 31-year-old David LeNeveu into his place on the Rangers bench. Talbot is out with an undisclosed injury that coach Alain Vigneault has deemed "day-to-day" though he has not skated for three straight days. Talbot did make the trip to Los Angeles with the Rangers but it is not immediately clear when he could be ready to return.
Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr, who has missed the past month with a knee injury, has been medically cleared to play but he did not dress Wednesday night. Sutter opted instead to sit the veteran blueliner for an extra game.