LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Rangers played right into the hands of the resilient Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
They took a 2-0 lead in the first 15 minutes and were shut down by Jonathan Quick the rest of the way.
Defenseman Dan Girardi made a critical blunder in his own zone and Justin Williams whipped the puck past Henrik Lundqvist at 4:36 of overtime, sending the frustrated Rangers to a 3-2 loss.
“The puck’s going to me, I’m trying to make a play up the middle and it bounced on me,” Girardi said. “I kind of got down to one knee and I’m just thinking about getting it to the wall. But the guy was there and made a smart play. You can’t give Justin Williams a shot like that. He’s pretty clutch in the playoffs.”
“It’s a tough play, and there’s nothing I can do about it right now. Maybe next time I’ll go higher or go to the corner and eat it. But I’m not going to dwell on it. You’ve got to have a short-term memory. I’m just going to forget about it and come out the next game hard.”
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty coughed up the puck to Benoit Pouliot inside the blue line and defense partner Jake Muzzin fell down trying to make a U-turn on the turnover. Pouliot converted his breakaway, beating Quick to the stick side 13:21 into the game.
Carl Hagelin put the Kings in a 2-0 hole with a short-handed goal while Mats Zuccarello was off for holding. Hagelin got a lead pass from former Kings center Brian Boyle at the red line, pushed the puck past Slava Voynov and sped past him before taking a short backhander. It was stopped by Quick, but the rebound caromed into the net off Voynov’s left skate.
“Anytime I’m out there on the PK, it’s important to anticipate what’s going to happen next,” Hagelin said. “When I play with Boyler, we read off each other very well and we’ve been creating a lot of chances as of late. So we’ve got to continue doing that and keep playing solid on the PK — and if we have a chance to go, we’ve got to go.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter did some line shuffling and got the desired results as the Kings came back to tie it.
“Both teams played great games,” Hagelin said. “You know every player is going to bring their ‘A’ game, which is pretty much what every player did tonight.”
Quick kept the Rangers from regaining their two-goal lead with a brilliant save on Brad Richards from the right of the net during a power play in the second period.
LA’s rally from 2-0 marked the 23rd time in the postseason a team erased a two-goal deficit in these playoffs, including both of the Kings’ victories at Chicago in the Western Conference final.
In the first New York-Los Angeles showdown in a Stanley Cup finals, the Rangers were outshot 14-0 during the first 11:42 of the third period before Quick stopped Martin St. Louis’ 25-foot shot. The Rangers got the game to overtime, but then Williams won it.
“It’s disappointing when you lose, especially when you’re that close,” Lundqvist said. “We had a really strong start, and then they started their push late in the first. Obviously in the third, they had a lot of the puck, but I felt like we kept them to the outside for the most part.”
“Well, they’re a good team. I mean, they come at you hard,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “When you make a play, you got to be willing to take the hit to make the play. That’s something we knew coming into the series.
“I thought for 40 minutes we handled it real well. Not quite sure what happened in the third there.”
The Rangers, playing their first game at Staples Center since winning 3-1 in the Kings’ home opener, faced a gritty club that got through each of its first three series by winning Game 7 on the road — the first team to do that. The Rangers knew there would be no letdown by LA.
“There was a lot of talk about that, but they only played one more game than us,” Lundqvist said. “You had to expect them to come out hard. At this time of the year, you’re not tired. You’re excited to be out there playing. We were looking to get the first win here, but we’ll try it again in the next one.”
The loss put a damper on Rangers fever — at least for one night — in New York, where thousands turned out to watch Game 1 at Bryant Park in Manhattan.
It was the third straight year Game 1 of the finals went to overtime, including the Kings’ 2-1 victory over New Jersey. They won the Cup in six games.
Three years ago, Vigneault guided the Vancouver Canucks to the finals and won the first two games before losing four of the next five to Boston.
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