- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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"Daddy, I'm going to New York," said Jaxon Williams, mini hockey stick in hand, to his Game 1-hero father.
"Oh, you are, are you?" Daddy said with a smile.
Hey, you can't blame the kid. Who wants to miss Justin Williams play on this stage? The bigger the game, the more the 32-year-old native of Cobourg, Ontario, comes to play.
Who else indeed but Williams to score to give the Kings a 3-2 OT win in the Stanley Cup opener?
"You know all about him. He's a special player," said Kings teammate Kyle Clifford. "With this group, we've always known he's Captain Clutch. It's special to share a locker room with him."
Added coach Darryl Sutter: "He's our best right winger every night, consistently."
Williams also assisted on Drew Doughty's tying goal in the second period, giving him 20 points (8-12) in 22 playoff games. On a team full of star players, Williams finds a way to stand out as well.
"I've said this many times -- Justin is the most underrated player on our team, by a mile," Doughty said. "He doesn't get enough credit for what he does. There's two guys on this team that I want to give the puck to, and that's him and [Anze Kopitar]. When they have the puck, plays happen. As a defenseman, you love to watch, and that gives up opportunities to jump in offensively, too. At the same time, he works very, very hard at both ends of the ice and shows a lot of leadership."
The only confusing part Wednesday night is that this was Game 1, not Game 7. Williams, of course, owns Game 7, going 7-0 in his career in seventh games while piling up seven goals and seven assists.
"I'd like to call him Mr. Game 1, 2, 3 and 4," said Kings blueliner Willie Mitchell. "It takes four wins. If he can do that three more times, that would be really nice."
Believe it or not, it was actually the first OT goal in Williams' career. That's about the only thing was that missing on a résumé sparkling with clutch playoff moments.
"Justin always seems to find a way for us and rises to the challenge," said Mitchell. "It's a belief. We've got a lot of depth up front and a lot of guys that can put pucks in the back of the net."
And that's just it about these Los Angeles Kings: They can score at will, it seems, to the tune of 3.46 goals per game in these playoffs, tops in the NHL. These are not your 2012 Kings who made the 2-1 victory a staple of their championship journey. No, these guys have more punch, even panache. With the emergence of youngsters Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson up front, the development of Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez on the back end, plus studs Anze Kopitar and Doughty somehow becoming even better overall players since 2012, well, you've got yourself a team that threatens to score on every shift.
Balance that offensive talent with the fact they remain, for our money, the heaviest team in the NHL, pounding the opposition physically, which in turn leads to mistakes and turnovers. The Kings outhit the Rangers 45-33 in Game 1, and as the game went on, the Blueshirts were worn down by the home team's relentless physical approach. How else to explain L.A.'s outshooting the Rangers 20-3 in the third period?
"I mean, they come at you hard," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. "When you make a play, you got to be willing to take the hit to make the play. That's something we knew coming into the series.
"I thought for 40 minutes we handled it real well. Not quite sure what happened in the third there."
The worst part for the Rangers is that the Kings were not exactly pleased with their effort in Game 1. They vow to be better in Game 2.
"I mean, it's a great result of the hockey game for us, definitely," said Williams. "But we have a lot of things to clean up. Certainly not our best game by any standards, especially ours."
The task will get tougher for the Rangers. The Kings know they can play better than they did in Game 1. And still they found a way. As they always seem to.
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