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Stanley Cup Final: LA Wins Game 1 in OT

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

The Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers in the first game of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, with an overtime goal from Justin Williams. To keep the score tied at two after three periods, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had to be much better than Kings goalie Jonathan Quick in this first meeting. The Rangers stayed neck and neck with the Kings through two periods, but in the third New York was overwhelmed, only getting three shots to the Kings’ 20.

It is only one game in a best of seven series, but since the NHL went to a seven game format for the Stanley Cup playoffs, the winner of the first game has won the Cup 77% of the time. That makes it far from a certainty that the Kings will win this. There is that 23% of the time to cling to, but it bodes ill for New York.

The New York Rangers looked ready to start the Stanley Cup Final with an upset of the Los Angeles Kings. Rick Nash, in particular, started out with a lot of energy and a few good chances. Nash did not open the scoring though. Instead, midway through the first period, Benoit Pouliot scored on a breakaway facilitated by a Drew Doughty giveaway. Less than two minutes later, Carl Hagelin scored a short-handed goal to make it 2-0.

The Rangers, far from looking rusty after a six day break, looked crisper than the Kings. Turnovers were coming fast and furious in the New York’s favor, but the Rangers were still outshot through the first half of the period. The Kings came back with an end-of-period goal from Kyle Clifford. It was Clifford’s first in 67 games.

The tying goal came six minutes in to the second period. Drew Doughty carried the puck past Derek Dorsett, sheltering it between his skates, and put a shot past Lundqvist. There were two Kings and a Ranger on the edge of the blue paint, crowding the Rangers netminder but not quite screening the shot.

Not long after, Derick Brassard put Kings’ captain Dustin Brown into the boards and the Kings went on a power play. The Kings did not convert on that opportunity. They even looked disorganized and overmatched against the Rangers’ penalty killers.

The Rangers finished the second period on a power play after Mike Richards was called for a high stick. They did not score but it left them with some seconds of a man advantage to start the third period.

Those seconds did not do much for the Rangers. Eight minutes in to the third, the Rangers had no shots on goal to the Kings’ 11. The Kings maintained an enormous shot advantage through the third period. With under two minutes left, the Kings went on the power play. Ironically, the Kings had no shots in any of their three power plays to that point. They got a couple of shots off before the buzzer, as did Carl Hagelin, going the other way short handed.

The teams looked pretty evenly matched for the four minutes that overtime lasted. Each team had two shots when Justin Williams ended it. Dan Girardi gave the puck away in a failed clearing attempt, and Tanner Pearson sent the puck back in to Williams. The game winner went over Lundqvist’s left shoulder, into the top corner.

The teams meet again on Saturday at 4 pm, again in Los Angeles.

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