|Dan Girardi made 2 costly errors, one in overtime that cost the Rangers game 1.|
Shootout, did you say you wanted a shootout? We can do that! Or, sorry, we thought we could anyway. Strong goal tending from both sides of the ice kept the score low. Speed defined the first period, which was appropriately won by the Rangers. Physicality defined the second period, which was where the Kings evened the score. Experience determined the game, as a mistake in overtime was eaten up by the team that won the Cup just a couple years ago.
The Kings came out shy and faced an onslaught of Rangers’ on the fly. Nerves seemed to grip the L.A. Kings early in the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals. But the New York Rangers showcased their speed and sent a slew of pucks at LA goaltender Jonathan Quick. The Kings survived the onslaught and finally started playing like themselves about six minutes into the first period. Jeff Carter had perhaps the first real chance at Henrik Lundqvist, when a rebound off the goalie set up right on his stick; but his shot had to find its way through a Ranger player and one of Carter’s own. The traffic was too much and you got the feeling at that point that the game might graduate into goalless doldrums.
And then at the 13:21 mark, the puck, still in the Ranger half slipped out toward Drew Doughty, who tried to get cute with it like a soccer player spinning upon receipt. I saw a Bosnian goal scorer apply the same move in a friendly just a night prior against Mexico. It worked in soccer, but in hockey, on ice, it was stolen away by Benoit Pouliot. He took it the length of the ice on the breakaway and set up right in front of Quick, beating him with a sharp wrister to the top corner.
With about five minutes left, the Kings got their first power play chance when Mats Zuccarello got two minutes for holding Tanner Pearson. Carl Hagelin got a short-handed goal when Brian Boyle sent a puck to the fast moving Hagelin who raced down the ice with Slava Voynov in pursuit. Hagelin took a lucky backhanded shot that bounced off Quick into Voynov’s skate and into his own goal. It was 2-0 Rangers at that point, in a shocking development reminiscent of the start of the Rangers’ every series this playoff run. It sure seems like the Rangers took game 1 in every series anyway.
With about 2:27 left on the clock, Jeff Carter turned on the heat and decided he wanted to win. He took the puck right into the goaltender, failed, but he kept fighting. He recovered the puck in the opposite corner and got it to fourth-liner Kyle Clifford, who put it right past Lundqvist on a sharp angle shot to cut the Rangers’ lead to 2-1.
The Rangers started the second period on fire again, rested now, literally zipping three shots back and forth at Quick from point blank range. But none made it past Quick somehow, by some Hollywood magic or something. It wasn’t the first time this night that Quick seemed to have some spiritual support in goal. Maybe all those mystics in the stands got to their voodoo or whatever.
But a little later on, Drew Doughty was redeemed as he snuck the puck through the offensive zone, keeping it inches from interception. He realigned himself as he slid past goal to shoot at Lundqvist. He forced it through, with the puck striking some unknown body (probably Lundqvist’s) and tied the game at 2-2.
Somewhere near the middle of the period, play slowed down and got seriously physical. Blood was flowing, literally, and more than a handful of players had to be checked out by trainers. Derick Brassard hit Dustin Brown from behind and left him sitting and crying on the ice, though drawing the penalty. The game was seriously physical, even dangerously so, with blood pouring down Matt Greene’s face at one point from a gash that ran from the corner of his eye before turning into a bruise across his cheek.
Not long after that Brown going down, Trevor Lewis shot out of a canon from center ice and rushed toward Lundqvist but ended up shooting from slightly behind him with hope of banking it off the goalie. Then Hagelin followed that run with a second run at goal of his own, but he had his legs taken out from under him by a diving King player, who took away the puck before tripping Hagelin. The Kings countered with a two man rush as Marian Gaborik got the puck passed forward ahead of him to catch up to. He chased it down but only had a chance at a weak backhand.
A high stick on Brassard by Mike Richards of the Kings caught him to the nose, drawing a penalty. Before that though, Drew Doughty caught the butt-end of a stick to the face. It was a cheap shot that you got the feeling some Ranger was going to pay for eventually. Doughty, normally a calm guy, was livid. It was interesting to see him interviewed after the game, though, because a reporter made him to believe it was accidental when it actually wasn’t. We’ll see what he thinks after he sees the tape.
The Rangers started the third period on the power player. The Kings didn’t just hold, they controlled the puck shorthanded and even got a dangerous shot off. It was now the Rangers, playing on the road, looking shy and timid. That’s basically how they ended up losing the game, because of lost confidence in the third.
Playoff points leader, Anze Kopitar, got a good opportunity shortly after the even play began, knocking a shot off Lundqvist and following his own rebound that was eaten up by the defenseman and goalie. Not long after that, the Rangers’ Dan Girardi (remember that accursed name) got lazy on a puck he had a good lead to, and Gaborik beat him to it. That forced the failed Girardi to hold him, and the Kings were back on the power play.
With about 6 minutes left in the third, Tyler Taffoli (that’s not a caramel treat) took the puck in with determination right up into Lundqvist, shot into him and then lost the handle just as he was shooting the rebound. It was 2-2 with five minutes left and Stanley Cup tension was building.
Rick Nash, who seems like he should be a country singer, led a charge in with 3 minutes remaining. It was a 3 on 2 but he stopped to shoot and had the puck stolen by the hard playing Gaborik. Play meandered to and fro, with each team seeking it (the win), but in a sneaky slow sort of way that led you to believe there wouldn’t be more than one goal.
It was the Rangers, though, who seemed to return to their earlier fervor toward the close of the game. Then Brian Boyle broke the stick of a King in half, drawing a penalty with a minute to go in the game. Boyle is a critical penalty killer, and he was sitting in the box for it now.
The final minute of play were the most exciting. Jeff Carter and Gaborik had two great chances on two separate occasions. Then Hagelin had another shorthanded break-away, tried to go top shelf and got it taken away by Quick. If you only watched that last minute, you were satisfied, trust me.
Dan Girardi fumbled a play earlier in the game, and did it again in overtime, costing the Rangers game 1 of the Stanley Cup. He had the puck as the rest of his teammates started moving forward. But as Girardi skated backwards, 2 Kings closed on him and he felt pressured lost the puck from his stick and then gave it away in an errand pass. It ended up in the clutches of Richards inside the blue line, who passed to Game 7 king, Justin Williams, who put a sharp wrist shot past Lundqvist to end it.
Has the magic ended for the fast and furious Rangers, who in the past had won Game 1? We won’t know until game two Saturday night. Justin Williams attributed his teammates’ resiliency for the team’s victorious ways, and humbly accepted praise in an after game interview. The Kings move on to game 2 with a lead and some leeway. So it will be interesting to see if they can pull off another victory or set this series loose to New York, where anything is possible when the New York faithful fill Madison Square Garden.