For the second straight game, the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers engaged in an overtime thriller in the 2014 Stanley Cup final, and the Kings emerged victorious once again, winning, 5-4, in double overtime to seize a 2-0 series lead.
In Saturday's Game 2 at the Staples Center, the hosts hung tough and scored twice in the third period to force the added action. Finally, in the second overtime, Kings captain Dustin Brown emerged with a loose puck, ripped it back to the point and redirected Willie Mitchell's shot from inside the blue line for the game-winner past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
This prediction from Fox Sports 1's Julie Stewart-Binks wound up ringing true, adding insult to injury for the Rangers:
Andrew Gross of The Record outlined the heartbreak New York's players must be feeling:
Brown shared his thoughts after the game, per the Kings' official Twitter account:
Both sides had golden opportunities in the first extra frame, but brilliant play from Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and his counterpart Lundqvist kept the score knotted at four. The Los Angeles Times' Steven Zeitchik tweeted this after a back-and-forth, chaotic final few minutes in the fourth period:
Even after blowing a two-goal third-period lead, it appeared the Rangers were dominating entering the fourth intermission in terms of puck possession. YES Network's Ryan Ruocco felt that was the case:
Kings Vision highlighted two occasions Quick stonewalled New York to keep the game alive through 80 minutes of play:
Per Sports Illustrated, just about everyone had a piece of the action by the time the fifth period rolled around:
As a leader would, though, Brown made the play that mattered most:
ESPN Stats & Info summarized just how well the Kings have handled adversity lately:
Own-zone turnovers defined the early lamp lighting. A failure to clear the puck out of their end saw the Kings fall into an early hole, as Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh rifled a slap shot through a screen at 10:48 in the first period. It went right past an unsuspecting Quick, giving the Blueshirts a 1-0 edge.
Similar to what happened in Game 1, L.A. spotted New York the first two goals of the contest. Another sloppy play on their own end cost the Kings.
One-on-one battles were waged, and the physical Rangers threw the puck at Quick. Mats Zuccarello waited on the backside doorstep to pound it in with less than two minutes remaining before the first intermission.
ESPN's Mark Schlereth looked prophetic following this tweet:
This is precisely the nightmare start L.A. didn't want to have. Before Game 2, coach Darryl Sutter emphasized how his club couldn't keep playing catch-up in pursuing Lord Stanley's Cup, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
Well, you can't chase leads all the time. It's the National Hockey League. It's the best teams in the world. There are two teams left out of 30, which means that they've both come a long ways, and they both had to be resilient. You don't get any award for "resilient." So we can play a lot better, and it's way better when you're not chasing the lead.
Alas, here the Kings were, heading to the locker room after 20 minutes trailing 2-0. But that resiliency came in handy in the second. Jarret Stoll netted his third goal of the playoffs to cut the deficit in half at 1:46.
However, Rangers star forward Martin St. Louis made a brilliant play to extend New York's lead again, sniping a shot past Quick as he fell to the ice on a one-timer.
NHL Public Relations noted the significance of St. Louis' 40th career postseason goal, which came at the 11:24 mark of the second:
It looked like L.A. would respond well, with Willie Mitchell scoring a power-play goal at 14:39, but Derick Brassard responded for the visitors in short order at 14:50, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Dwight King then became King in the third, sparking a rally for L.A. by tipping a point-fired puck past Lundqvist—again under two minutes into the new period (1:58). That was the source of controversy, as King could have easily been called for interference.
Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times noted how Lundqvist was expressing his disapproval of the non-call—to no avail:
Yahoo Sports' Nick Cotsonika brought up a valid point with regard to the rulebook:
Then the stage was set for Marian Gaborik. A confusing kerfuffle in front of the Rangers' net blocked Lundqvist's vision. A scramble for the puck near the crease saw Gaborik come forth and notch the unassisted equalizer in yet another incredible rally for the Kings:
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun felt the need to reemphasize how poorly both teams were handling the puck near their own nets:
As much offense as there was, though, this second showdown needed extra time to be decided after a sudden gridlock that saw no goals scored over the final 12:24 of regulation.
Sometimes hockey can be considered lacking in entertainment when goals aren't being scored, but with the quality of chances each team had in overtime, there was no shortage of drama. That held true until Mitchell and Brown finally ended it.
Colin Cowherd of ESPN believes this Stanley Cup finale has been an excellent showcase for the theater that can accompany the NHL playoffs:
Although the Rangers come away with two losses after battling hard in Los Angeles, they can take solace in the fact that they competed well on the road. As long as they can take care of business at least once in Madison Square Garden, they have to feel confident about returning to the Staples Center next Friday. With how tough they've been this postseason, they couldn't be counted out even trailing 3-1 heading back on the road.
But bottom line: The Kings are in firm control of this series. They have had to exert a tremendous amount of energy just to overcome sloppy starts to both games of the final. Imagine what they can do if they get off to a better beginning in the Big Apple.
All of that bodes well for bringing the Cup back to the City of Angels for the second time in three years.
Regardless of which side wins the NHL's ultimate prize, the quality of goaltending between Quick and Lundqvist is bound to increase as the stakes get even higher. That should go a long way toward deciding the series, creating a compelling conclusion to the chase for the Cup, resuming with Monday's Game 3.
Follow MattFitz_gerald on Twitter