(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)
The Los Angeles Kings have won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons. The game winner was scored in double overtime by the Kings’ fourth line. Alec Martinez actually scored it, but he gave his linemates credit:
I just saw there was a loose puck in my own end, I just tried to get it in a forward’s hands. And I think Toffoli had a great shot, far pad, and fortunately the rebound came to me and I was able to put it in. It was a great play by them, I was just the benefactor.
It was Martinez’ second overtime game winner in these playoffs. The first was in the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. This time, it was 15 minutes into a second overtime period, to win the Stanley Cup. He talked about the team’s mindset after they fell behind at the end of the second period on a short-handed goal by Brian Boyle:
I mean, the New York Rangers are a hell of a hockey club and we knew that this was going to be a tough series. There’s a lot of guys who’ve been around, a couple years ago, we know the fourth one’s definitely the hardest one to get, So that’s what we were talking about in the locker room, we just had to dig deep and just keep grinding away. We believed we were going to win this game.
The Conn Smythe trophy was awarded to Justin Williams. To many, Williams was flying under the radar when these playoffs started. As the leading scorer in the Final and a now three-time Stanley Cup winner, it is hard to believe he was very far under the radar. In any case, he is on everyone’s screen now.
The Kings scored before the Rangers even had a shot on goal. That would not be very unusual except that it wasn’t a goal in the first two minutes. Over six minutes had gone by. The goal came after a scramble in front of the Rangers’ net, after several tries. The successful shot was taken by Justin Williams. Assists went to Dwight King and Jarret Stoll.
Martin St. Louis took the Rangers’ first shot of the game, just shy of eight minutes in. For his trouble, Dustin Brown hauled St. Louis down and gave the Rangers a power play. The Rangers started pretty strong and got a few shots in, but the power play fizzled in the last 30 seconds or so, with the Kings getting a step on them before they could get set up.
It took the Rangers well over 20 minutes to tie the game. The goal came on a power play earned by Mats Zuccarello, who took a stick to the face from Dwight King. It started out badly, with a misfired pass from McDonagh to Richards, and then another pass to the other team, this time from Martin St. Louis. After almost a minute wasted, the Rangers were finally set up, with Brad Richards at the point.
One of the knocks on Richards has been that he overstays on the power play. This time was one of those extended stays, a minute and 29 seconds had elapsed and he had started it. Of course, no one else had gone off either so perhaps the criticisms are unfairly specific.
Ryan McDonagh shot a puck in from the wall, and it went neatly to Kris Kreider’s on the far side of the blue paint. It went by Quick and Kings defenseman Greene and landed right on Chris Kreider’s stick. Kreider got the goal, McDonagh the primary assist and the secondary assist went to Brad Richards.
Before the Rangers were done, they took the lead to end the second period. They set themselves up by taking a penalty and playing short handed. Dominic Moore got called for a subtle stick infraction. The Kings had a good chance early in that power play but the Rangers kept them to the outside and only allowed one shot on goal.
In the final three seconds of the penalty, Brian Boyle and Carl Hagelin went the other way when Slava Voynov could not hold the puck in. After Hagelin corralled the puck and kept it away from Voynov near the Kings’ blue line, he passed it in Boyle’s direction. Boyle had to hustle and reach for it but he got it before Drew Doughty could. Boyle skated around Doughty in the slot and shot from a wide angle, skating left and shooting at the top right corner. Quick slid just a little too far to the right.
The Rangers started the third period pretty well but nearing the midpoint, the Kings had the Rangers pinned in their zone and scrambling. Lundqvist made some desperate saves but a tripping call on Zuccarello put the Kings on the power play. The call could have gone either way, as Zuccarello was chasing the puck to the blue line and Jake Muzzin did nothing to avoid having his leg run into. Logically, he should have, if he had any intention of chasing the puck the other way instead of letting it go right by him. So that call was mysterious.
The Kings only needed 17 seconds of power play time to tie the game. Henrik Lundqvist had stopped the shot but it was sitting just between his legs. Marian Gaborik was right in front of him, having squeezed in front of Anton Strallman. With a quick poke he shot the puck under Lundqvist. The shot had plenty of momentum in case of snow piles.
The Kings had consistently led on the shot clock, almost doubling the Rangers in total shots. In the third, however, the Kings were shooting the Rangers to pieces. The period totals were 12-3 for Los Angeles. The Kings finished with a very dangerous play. Anze Kopitar picked up the puck near the circle at the Rangers’ end, carried the puck into the corner and back out, despite being harassed by Ryan McDonagh. He held it long enough to find the late-arriving Jake Muzzin with a perfect backhand pass for a final shot through traffic. The shot went wide but it was a strong finish from the Kings.
Near the four minute mark of the first overtime, the Rangers drew a power play when Voynov went to the box for hooking. The Rangers, led by an impressive forecheck from Brad Richards, made a good start to the power play but it lost some steam when Ryan McDonagh’s shot beamed its way through some traffic only to hit the post.
The middle minutes of the period consisted of grueling up and down play, with the Kings continuing to outshoot the Rangers. With about six minutes left, Tanner Pearson had two tries at Lundqvist, a shot and then a wrap-around but Lundqvist got across to stop both.
A couple of minutes later, the Kings pinned the Rangers in their zone again. For the first time, the Rangers looked weary, losing battles on the boards and unable to get the puck out. Finally, Dominic Moore did get it out with a careful play off the boards. It was still an icing but his team needed the air.
The Kings were leading the period in shots 13-6.
Jonathan Quick showed uncanny tenacity in the last 90 seconds of the period, when the Rangers overwhelmed the Kings and peppered him with a couple of shots before crashing the net en masse. The referee took his time with the whistle but Quick did find the puck. Two more chances, one for each team ended the first OT. Chris Kreider had a breakaway stopped by Quick, and Jeff Carter had a chance thwarted by Rangers defenders.
It took the Kings almost 15 minutes of the second overtime to finish off the Rangers. They had to kill a penalty 5:43 in when Kyle Clifford went to the box for boarding. After some difficulty getting the puck away from his own net, Alec Martinez, Clifford and Toffoli went the other way in a three on two against Kevin Klein & John Moore. Martinez sent the puck across the neutral zone to Toffoli, who carried it in and took a shot from the half wall. Brian Boyle tried to get back to help but he was too late. Lundqvist kicked the puck out right to Martinez who did not miss the open net.
It was a disappointing finish for Lundqvist after making 49 saves through almost five periods.
For all the talk of puck luck in this series, it is hard to ignore what looks like a special relationship between the Kings and Friday the 13th. The Kings also played a playoff game on Friday the 13th in 2012. That day, they beat the Vancouver Canucks. That was just a first round game, the second in the series. What are the odds they would win twice on Friday the 13th, and win the Cup both seasons?