jeudi 5 juin 2014

Williams strikes in OT as Kings rally past Rangers for Game 1 win #kings #rangers #nhl #hockey #stanleycup #playoffs

 Justin Williams #14 of the Los Angeles Kings and teammates celebrate Williams overtime game-winner against the New York Rangers during Game One of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Staples Center on June 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

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 The L.A. Kings didn’t have much time to come down aftertheir Sunday night, Game 7 overtime win in Chicago.

Just enough to catch their breaths, appear at a StaplesCenter media day for the Stanley Cup and read, hear and see everywhere theyturned that they would certainly make short work of the New York Rangers.

It was the perfect formula for a hangover and the Kingshad a beauty in the early going of Game 1. They were outskated, outhustled,outbattled and in all ways outplayed by the Rangers, who raced to a 2-0 leadthat could have been much, much bigger if they had buried some of their Grade-Achances.
“I think they had a lot of energy and were fresh. If youlook at their playoffs in the first periods, they've had really good firstperiods every game,” said L.A. coach Darryl Sutter. “I think … I know that wewere not on full tanks.”

But this was, after all, the Kings.

As reliably difficult to put away as ever, the team thatsurvived three straight Game 7s on the road just to get here eventuallyrecovered its legs and screwed its head back on and then poured it on againstthe Eastern winners, finally prevailing 3-2 on Justin Williams’ goal at 4:36of overtime.

The Rangers let it get away and they know it. They werethe fresher team and this was the game they had to have.

It’s going to be all uphill from here.

“I liked the waywe played the first two periods. It was a hard-fought first 40 minutes by bothteams. Not quite sure what happened there in the third,” said Rangers coachAlain Vigneault.

“Not sure if it was them being that good or us stoppinggoing north-south. I feel when you play against such a good opponent that hasall that strength, you need to play a full game and for whatever reason,tonight we just weren’t good enough in the third.”

The game-winner was a comedy of errors: first L.A.forward Tanner Pearson fanning on a pass 3-on-2, then New York blueliner DanielGirardi doing the same after falling down. The puck ended on the stick ofthe Kings’ Mike Richards, who was trying to get to the bench to change — and withGirardi’s defence partner Ryan McDonagh cheating on offence, Williams was allalone to accept Richards’ pass and fire a short wrist shot over HenrikLundqvist’s shoulder.

“He’s a really good player for our hockey club. He’s ourbest right winger every night, consistently,” said Sutter.

But he wasn’t the Kings’ best player.

That was goalie Jonathan Quick, who stopped 25 of 27shots, early and late, many of them dangerous. The Kings fired 43 at Lundqvist.

In a third period in which the Kings outshot the visitors20-3 and really ought to have won the game in regulation time, Lundqvist wasthe Rangers’ best player by a mile.

“He was the reason we went to overtime. He gave us achance,” said Vigneault. “A lot of times in overtime, it’s a bounce, a shot,and tonight, they got it.”

The Kings were sloppy and slow to start and the Rangersjumped on them for a breakaway goal by Benoit Pouliot, who took the puck offDrew Doughty and another by speedy Carl Hagelin, whose first shot was stoppedby Quick but the rebound was kicked into the net by L.A. defenceman SlavaVoynov.

“We kind of got away with an ugly one,” said Kings defencemanWillie Mitchell. “Quickie was outstanding to let us find a little bit of legs.I think maybe the trainers put gumboots in our stalls instead of skates today.

“Sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason behind it. We justbattled. Like I said, we relied on our goaltender way too much. We need to getbetter in that.”

The first twitch of life the Kings showed was whenfourth-liner Kyle Clifford converted Jeff Carter’s pass from behind the net toget L.A. out of the first period down only a goal.

By then, Sutter had already put his lines and defencepairs in the blender, trying to produce some semblance of energy.

Then Doughty atoned for his earlier mistake, weaving inaround the Rangers defence and beating Lundqvist at 6:36 of the second to tiethe game.

The Rangers hung on through the second half of the gameto get it to overtime, although the few shots they managed in the third allseemed to be gold-plated chances that required big saves by Quick, notably onMarty St. Louis, who could have had a handful of goals on the night, andHagelin, whose speed gave the Kings fits.

In the end, the least surprising event all evening wasthat it was Williams getting the job done with the game on his stick.

“We screwed up a 3-on-2 royally, fortunately theirdefenceman couldn’t get the puck out, and I was sitting right in front,” said Williams,who has been the hero of so many Game 7s, he wears the nickname.

“It was certainly not our best game by any standards,especially ours, but we were able to get it done.”
"I'd like to call him Mr. Game 1, 2, 3 and 4. Ittakes four wins,” said Mitchell. “If he can do that three more times, thatwould be really nice."

It was not, in any way, a convincing win, but it showedthe truth of what Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had said after histeam lost the Game 7 heartbreaker.

“I know one thing: they find a way, L.A.,” saidQuenneville. "They're never out of ahockey game, they're never out of a series. They're dangerous.”

They could be even more so after two off-days before Game2.