The final twist and turn in the 2014 NHL playoffs, the Stanley Cup Finals, are exciting but oddly predictable, as once again the New York Rangers drop an early and promising lead to a devastating blitz by the Los Angeles Kings in the closing moments, winning 5-4 in second overtime thanks to a Dustin Brown goal, taking a 2-0 lead in the series.
Unlike the first game when the Rangers only held that two goal lead in the first period, this time the crumble was much more devastating. They were 4-2 going into the third period, but once again fell to the possession and discipline from the Kings offense, although some foul play and bad officiating helped the hosts come back. But the bottom line: The Kings keep being the better and more dangerous team in the third period and overtime, eventually reaping rewards from the pressure they’re putting the Rangers under.
The Rangers are playing on speed and tenacity, but it only goes a certain distance when they give away so much space and possession to the Kings. A lesser team might fall into these tactical traps, but the Kings simply don’t make mistakes with the game on the line, or simply have yet to make them in this series so far. Jonathan Quick made 34 saves and conceded four, but came up big at the end of the first overtime to make sure it wasn’t him that costs the Kings home ice advantage.
The Rangers took the lead with a goal from Ryan McDonagh, followed by Mats Zuccarello with another McDonagh assist putting them 2-0 up before the first period ended. The system of waiting behind and taking advantage of mistakes in open space works early, but the Kings learn on the fly and adapt, not to mention get very physical with Henriq Lundqvist, slowly wearing the goalie and his defense down.
Jarrett Stoll brought the Kings back in the game before a nice one-touch slap shot from Martin St. Louis on the Power Play gave the Rangers a two goal lead again. Willie Mitchell scored from very far to make it his first of the postseason on the power play, as Lundqvist knew it was his fault; that such a shot once again bringing the Kings within one, shouldn’t be allowed to go in at this level of competition.
The Rangers didn’t fold early this time. Derick Brassard put them once again with a two goal advantage (4-2) on a day in which he was probably the best player on the ice for the Rangers, although he had one big miss in front of quick in the closing seconds of the first overtime that he’ll think about on the way back to the East Coast. The Kings didn’t dominate in the way they did in the first game during the third period, but there were enough similarities.
The most important of them were the equalizing goals. A shot from Matt Greene bounced into the net off of Dwight King, who was actually pushing Lundqvist out of the way in an area he shouldn’t be allowed to. The Rangers protested, but the Kings were once again one goal away, as the Rangers gave up on offense too early. It ended up costing them dearly, as Marian Gaborik was the quickest off the rebound to score his 13th goal of the postseason.
The Kings dominated the first overtime but the Rangers had their chances just before the horn blew. In the second overtime, it didn’t take long for Dustin Brown to finish the game with his fifth goal of the postseason, as the Kings once again prove that counting them out, no matter how far up they have to climb from holes they dig themselves early in games. Champions usually have that kind of mentality.