Game 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup finals didn’t disappoint in terms of quality and the drama, as the Los Angeles Kings came back from being two goals down early to the New York Rangers, pulling off a 3-2 win in overtime thanks to none other than Justin Williams, taking a 1-0 lead in the series.
Both teams are used to stealing home ice advantage and the Rangers, defending very well, took everyone by surprise in two fantastic minutes of breakaway hockey to get themselves up by two goals. It began with a turnover by Drew Doughty, giving Benoit Pouliot a clear path towards Jonathan Quick’s goal, giving the Rangers the 1-0 lead, sending the viewing party back in New York into a frenzy.
Two minutes passes and this time it wasn’t a steal but simply the on-ice speed of Carl Hagelin that gave the Rangers a shorthanded goal, as he blew by the Kings’ defense and got in a shot that bounced off a skate and went behind Quick to give the Rangers a slightly surprising 2-0 lead. Maybe if the first period would have ended with that lead it would have been much more difficult for the Kings to mount a comeback, but Kyle Clifford scored his first goal of the playoffs and the game was turned.
The Kings didn’t have the best of second periods. The game wasn’t exactly great overall during those 20 minutes. But the Kings got what they wanted out of that. Drew Doughty owed the fans and his team after his mistake in the first period, so the defender took it on himself to make it a level game, scoring his fifth goal of the postseason and taking away what little momentum the Rangers had left.
The third period was about the Kings and Henriq Lundqvist. The fantastic goalie made 20 saves, finishing the game with a total of 40, as the Rangers barely got a chance to breath before overtime. It was a wild 1:36 to finish regulation with the Kings on a power play, as both Hagelin and Jeff Carter missed from close range, which meant the Kings were going to their third consecutive overtime game in the playoffs.
And overtime belonged to Mr. Game 7. This was only the first in the series, but any overtime in the Stanley Cup means Justin Williams raises his game to another level, eventually being the one who pulls off the winning goal, taking advantage of a Dan Girardi goal. Just like the opening goal of the game, this one was about a huge mistake, only the Kings sealed the deal with theirs, going on to take the lead.
This was the first time since 2001 that the Kings won an overtime postseason game at home. Both teams have had a very long postseason, playing a combined 41 games. Early on, it looked like the Kings were slightly more tired than the Rangers, although that advantage quickly disappeared and at least for this day and night, the Kings were the much better hockey team and deserved to take the win.
It certainly helps that we’ve done it time and time again. It’s a great result of the hockey game for us, definitely, but we have a lot of things to clean up. Certainly not our best game by any standards, especially ours, but we were able to get it done. That’s the most important thing.