LOS ANGELES — As the media shuffled into the visiting locker room at Staples Center, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was seated at the first stall just inside the doorway. His leg pads still adorned, drenched in sweat from five periods of hockey, Lundqvist held his head in his hands, a picture of disappointment and frustration.
About 20 minutes and 100 feet from that scene was Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter, holding court in the auxiliary media room. He offered smirks, sarcastic quips and even commentary on the difference between a question and a statement.
The difference between winning and losing each of the first two games of this series has been razor-thin, yet the Kings have been the team doing the slicing and did so again in Game 2.
Dustin Brown capped yet another overtime win for this Kings team that simply refuses to die, scoring 10:26 into the second overtime Saturday night in a 5-4 victory that once again saw Los Angeles overcome a 2-0 deficit.
And a 3-1 deficit. And a 4-2 deficit in the third period.
If Kings win this thing, it would be the 15th game of this postseason a team erased a 2-goal deficit to win, per @ESPNStatsInfo.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) June 8, 2014
The Kings hold a 2-0 lead on the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final by the slimmest of margins, yet the gap in attitude between the clubs is about as wide as the distance between New York and Los Angeles on the map.
After Lundqvist removed his pads and composed himself, he made sure to let the throng of reporters know he was not happy about Dwight King's goal that cut the lead to 4-3 less than two minutes into the third period. Defenseman Matt Greene fired a long shot that Lundqvist had measured, but he was unable to get a pad on the puck because King and Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh became tangled in the crease.
Despite what looked like an interference call, the goal was allowed to stand. At the ensuing television timeout, Lundqvist was still upset about the lack of penalty and skated over to referee Dan O'Halloran to let him know about it.
A few minutes later, a turnover in front of the net led to Marian Gaborik's tying goal that made it 4-4.
Wow one of the Best games in the playoffs, Kings NEVER give up, big saves by Quick big goal by Brown 45 min ice time by Doughty 2-0 Kings— Bernie Nicholls (@bernienicholls9) June 8, 2014
There's a lot to be said for the Kings' zombie-like ability to continue pushing forward despite absorbing bullet after bullet, but the Rangers came a bit unraveled and found themselves backpedaling during the third period for a second straight game.
"I'm extremely disappointed on that call or non-call," Lundqvist said. "They got to be consistent with that rule. They score a goal and I can't even move. It's extremely frustrating for them to get life like that. After that, it's a different game. I don't expect a penalty on the play, but they need to blow the whistle. A goalie can't move when you have a guy like that on top of you.
"It's such an important play of that game. He said the puck had already passed me. I don't buy that explanation.
"One play can change everything. I felt like that play did."
When told of Lundqvist's comments, that he couldn't move on King's goal, Sutter offered a much briefer answer.
"I'll take his word for it," he said.
While that will be the moment Rangers fans dissect for the next 48 hours, this was the second straight game that was up for grabs throughout regulation and overtime.
Once again, it was the Kings who answered the bell.
The Rangers had a 2-0 lead at the first intermission thanks to goals from McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello. After a Derek Stepan turnover in Game 1 led to Kyle Clifford's goal that cut the Rangers' lead to 2-1, it was Brad Richards playing the role of philanthropist by giving away a puck in his own zone. It led directly to Jarret Stoll's goal that cut the lead to 2-1.
This time, the Rangers refused to cough up the lead. At least, not right away.
Martin St. Louis went knee and bar down on a setup from Stepan to make it 3-1. Willie Mitchell brought the Kings back to within a goal when his point blast eluded Lundqvist, but 11 seconds later Jonathan Quick was caught behind his net, which allowed Derick Brassard to put the Rangers ahead by two goals for a third time.
All the Rangers were doing was delaying the inevitable.
Chris Kreider had two chances to win it during the first overtime, but he hit the post from the slot and had a breakaway stopped by Quick a couple of minutes later.
The game was there for the taking, yet it was the Kings who seized the moment as they have throughout this postseason.
The Rangers entered this series as underdogs by any measure, be it in Las Vegas, the NHL standings or by looking at possession metrics from the regular season.
Yet Brian Boyle didn't want to hear about that after the game. He didn't want to hear about how close the Rangers have come to winning both games in this series, either.
"I don't give a s--t about underdogs," Boyle said. "That's ridiculous. Give me a break. We're not. We're here, too. We're a good team. And we can’t take any solace (in two close games) because we lost.
"We came here to win games. It doesn't matter how the hell we do it, we have to win the game. If you don't win the game, you didn't do what you came to do and that's the worst feeling there is."
The Rangers felt they played well, and there's truth to that. But they didn't play well enough.
"It's a little tough right now," Anton Stralman said. "It's a lot of disappointment, but at the same time, I'm proud of the effort we made. We played hard almost the whole game. We generated a lot of chances. We played a good game. Sometimes you lose those games too."
Kings have now played 229:15 without having a lead during a game, and are 3-0. This is the event horizon of hockey.— Ray Ratto (@RattoCSN) June 8, 2014
The Kings felt they played well, and there's truth to that. But they feel they can play better.
"I think the room thinks that there's definitely room for improvement," Anze Kopitar said. "We're going to have to play better on the road."
That's a boilerplate quote from Kopitar, the type of answer a player gives when he's on autopilot. The Kings were credited with an astronomical 33 giveaways in Game 2, and Sutter conceded his players were having some trouble with the Rangers' forecheck.
While the Kings are pouncing on the Rangers' mistakes, the Rangers seem unable to do the same.
There is an unflappable belief with this Kings team that when things go poorly, they will find a way to get back into a game. When the Rangers get a lead, it has just been a matter of time before they tighten up, sit back and treat the puck like a live grenade that finds its way into their net.
One team believes. The other says it does, but the Rangers' actions have spoken louder than their words.
The Kings have yet to hold a lead during a game in this series. If they can play from ahead in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers have the feel of a team that's ready to fold.
"It's an interesting stat," said Justin Williams about the Kings winning their past three games despite never holding a lead until overtime, "but either way, we're up 2-0. I don't care how we got here."
Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.
All statistics via NHL.com.
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