The Los Angeles Kings hold a 2-0 series lead over the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final, but Darryl Sutter's team knows better than anyone else: That kind of advantage is about as safe as year-old milk.
L.A. has now pulled off three dramatic, two-goal comebacks in a row—one in Game 7 to send home the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks and two more in the Cup final in its best attempt to deflate the Rangers before returning to New York.
With a total of three overtimes in those first two games, though, things could have easily gone either way. And with the Rangers winning three of their last four at home, this series is very much far from over.
What: Stanley Cup Final, Game 3
Date: Monday, June 9, 2014
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
The Kings are starting to gain a national reputation as a "never-say-die" team, but that's wrong. With everything they've been through, it's a certainty that they've already died on multiple occasions—they just keep coming back to life.
These are the Zombie Kings.
In Round 1, the San Jose Sharks seemed to have multiple nails in the Kings' coffin with a 3-0 series advantage, only for L.A. to win the next four by a combined score of 18-5. The Anaheim Ducks went up 3-2—and the Kings won the next two, including a 6-2 thumping on the road in Game 7. The 'Hawks had a 2-0 lead at home in the deciding Game 7 and lost in overtime.
Now the Rangers are feeling the same wrath of the Zombies, losing the first two games in overtime after leading 2-0 both times. As ESPN's Arash Markazi noted, the Kings have now astoundingly won three in a row despite never leading:
The last time the Kings led in a game was Game 6 of West Finals (5/30), which they lost. They've won the last 3 games despite never leading.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 8, 2014
The Kings have trailed by two goals in the first period in the last three games and never once led before the game-winning goal in OT.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 8, 2014
ESPN's John Buccigross further summarized the comeback nature of L.A.'s run:
Goal differential by period, 2014 Playoffs. LA Kings 1st Period -1 2nd Period +1 3rd Period +13— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) June 8, 2014
The Kings' new mascot should definitely be a Zombie Rally Monkey.
Still, while the character and stamina of this team will never be questioned, it's not exactly a good habit to get into. If it keeps poking the bear, sooner or later it will get mauled. As veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the team still isn't satisfied:
Well, we're going to rope-a-dope them again. Fat chance, we're not saying that. Trust me. Quite honestly, we're not happy with how we've started these two games at all. It's the Stanley Cup finals, and you know everyone in this room cares. So much. But we haven't executed. We haven't executed well in the first half of games [in this series]. It baffles everyone in here. It's not a place we want to be in to have to climb out of all the time. Sooner or later, it's going to bite you in the ass.
On the flip side, the Rangers have played well. It hasn't been perfect—they continue to struggle on the power play and let opportunities slip away—but their speed has forced the Kings into making lots of mistakes, and they have been in position to win both games.
Mats Zuccarello, via the New York Daily News' Pat Leonard, put it simply:
Game 3 is essentially a must-win for the Rangers, and it will be difficult to bounce back from two consecutive soul-crushing defeats. But this time around, they will be the ones showing off the resiliency.
Who ya got in Game 3?
On home ice, New York's speed creates a multitude of chances and King Henrik Lundqvist does enough on the other end—for all three periods.
Prediction: Kings 2, Rangers 3