LOS ANGELES--Surely nothing could quite top this topsy-turvy postseason for the nerveless Los Angeles Kings?
Just when you started thinking it was nearly impossible to surpass the wild events of the last week or so, the Kings and New York Rangers got together and produced a thriller in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday at Staples Center with the Kings winning, 5-4.
It was decided by Kings captain Dustin Brown's redirection past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist of defenseman Willie Mitchell's shot from the point at 10:26 of double overtime. Center Anze Kopitar had the second assist on the goal.
Justin Williams, the overtime hero of Game 1, had three assists for the Kings, and Mitchell had a two-point effort, a goal in the second period and assist on Brown's game-winner.
The Kings, again, fell behind, 2-0, for the third straight game, rallied for the third consecutive time and forced overtime for the third game in a row.
Talk about a cosmic hat trick.
Mitchell spoke afterward in his TV interview about "digging ourselves holes," but added they were finding ways to "dig deep."
Call this another excavation project extraordinaire: The Big Dig.
More so, it put a serious dent into the Rangers' psyche with the series moving to New York for the next two games, and they will carry the fact that they had a two-goal lead three times and couldn't come away with a win in Los Angeles. The Kings hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven-games Stanley Cup Final.
"It wasn't the start we were looking for, but we showed the character and grit in this room in another come-from-behind victory in overtime," said Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin.
Muzzin talked about the overtime mentality. His ice time was 36 minutes 28 seconds and his partner, defenseman Drew Doughty, logged an impressive 41:41.
"You've got to shorten your shifts and bear down on your battles because everybody's getting tired," Muzzin said. "You have to compete and hope for a bounce. Kopi made a great play to Willie for the shot and deflection in the net. It was a good finish."
The Kings and Rangers combined for nine goals and teetered wildly between dizzying artistry and glaring mistakes -- sometimes on the same shift. Mitchell had his own miscue, along with Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, leading to the Rangers' fourth goal, which came 11 seconds after Mitchell scored at 14:39 of the second.
Incredibly, the Kings haven't held a lead in regulation since Game 5 against Chicago.
"There's no handbook for how to handle overtime," Williams said. "You either want to make the play or you're out there filling space. We've got a team of guys who want to make a difference. In overtime, you're taking short shifts and do whatever you can to make sure you're at your best."
They showed their usual indomitable spirit in rallying from a 2-0 first-period deficit and a 4-2 hole after two periods. The goal sparking the third-period comeback and seeming to get Lundqvist rattled was by Kings power forward Dwight King at 1:58, cutting the Rangers' lead to 4-3.
Lundqvist felt there should have been goaltender interference on the play and argued his case long after the fact.
Then came the next salvo: Former Rangers forward Marian Gaborik tied it, 4-4, scoring on his own second effort at 7:36, an unassisted goal aided by Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh falling down on the play.
Game 3 will be Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The biggest surprise will be if it does not go to overtime.
Overall, the Kings have needed to go to overtime in four of their last five playoff games.
Williams was asked about the fact that the Kings have not led in either of the two games in the Stanley Cup Final or in the seventh game against the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference finals, but won all three.
"It's an interesting stat," said Williams. "But either way, we're up, 2-0. I don't care how we got here."
Said Kopitar: "Sometimes, we do play our best hockey when we are desperate. There's more of a sense of urgency when we start. We still have some room to improve and we're going to have to because we're going into a loud building and they'll be fired up to be at home. We're going to have to match that intensity."
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