Well, after tonight, it certainly appears the NHL Stanley Cup Finals are going to be a whole lot of fun to watch.
The Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead, thanks in part to some crucial mistakes from Los Angeles. The Kings gave up a breakaway thanks to Drew Doughty fumbling a toe-drag, and then a shorthanded tally less than two minutes later. It certainly looked like New York was much more prepared for the grand stage.
But, seriously, if you’ve been watching the Kings at all this postseason, you knew what would happen next. L.A. scored two unanswered to force overtime, and eventually Justin Williams, who knows all about playoff heroics, sent Kings fans home happy with a game-winner four minutes into the extra frame.
The Rangers now have a couple days to regroup before Saturday’s Game 2. Knowing how crucial it is to avoid heading back home down 2-0, New York needs to figure out a way to steal a win.
In order to do so, they’ll badly need to create more scoring opportunities. The Rangers were outshot 43-27, including a three-shot third period. Pouncing on L.A. mistakes as they did tonight was crucial, but they simply can’t be as offensively ineffective in Game 2.
New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist did everything he could to keep his team in the game. A stat line of 40 saves on 43 shots is all you can ask from your netminder, and yet, the Rangers couldn’t take advantage. If they want to even the series, they have to give their goalie more support, especially if they’re going to let him get drilled with as many pucks as they did tonight.
The Kings head into Game 2 continuing to show off their incredible ability to bounce back from any and all mistakes. New York took advantage of some sloppy play by Los Angeles, and yet, you’d hardly assume it had any effect. Doughty, who spoon-fed Benoit Pouliot the aforementioned breakaway goal, rebounded with a highlight-reel tally that tied the game just a period later. Nothing appears to shake this team, and it will continue to be a huge advantage until something, somehow changes.
If the Rangers grab another small lead in Game 2, they can’t just sit on it. Los Angeles has a full resume of monumental comebacks this postseason, so New York needs to pour it on nonstop. There’s no prevent defense that’s going to keep the Kings off the scoreboard. And if New York receives another performance like the one they received from Lundqvist tonight, it needs to be enough for a victory.
L.A. now sits just three wins away from their second Cup in three years. The Rangers can prevent this from happening, starting with a win Saturday night, but they’ll need to bring a little more than what they showed tonight.