LOS ANGELES — Justin Williams’ heroics are already well-documented. He comes up big when his teams need it, as evidenced by his seven goals and 14 points in seven career Game 7s. On Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, he was the hero again as the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime.
“I’ve said this many times, that Justin is the most underrated player on our team by a mile,” said Drew Doughty. “He doesn’t get enough credit for what he does. There’s two guys on this team I want to give the puck to and that's him and [Anze Kopitar]. When they have the puck, plays happen.”
The Kings admitted afterward there is much to clean up over the next few days before Game 2 Saturday night. They didn’t play their best game and the sequence that eventually led to the Williams goal was a sign of that.
LA broke out of its zone with Tanner Pearson controlling the puck and Mike Richards and Williams to his right. Pearson flubbed his pass attempt to Williams and he and Richards tried to recover the puck, but it ended up sliding back to Dan Girardi in the Rangers’ zone.
“We screwed up a three-on-two royally,” Williams said afterward. That turnover could have been something the Kings looked back upon had it been New York celebrating in the end.
Instead, Girardi fanned on a pass attempt up the ice allowing Pearson to apply pressure. The Rangers defenseman scrambled and tried to clear the puck from the zone from his knees, but it ended up on Richards’ stick along the boards.
Richards, who moments earlier was signaling for a line change, then saw a wide open Williams in the slot, fed him the pass, and the Kings took a 1-0 series lead on his eighth goal of the playoffs.
“That’s something he’s done throughout his career,” said Jonathan Quick. “I don’t know what more you can say about him. He comes up big at clutch times.”
For as many times that Williams has produced at key moments in his career, that was his first career playoff overtime goal. In the process, the win was the Kings’ first at home in an overtime playoff game since their 2001 series against the Colorado Avalanche. Glen Murray was the hero that night.
Williams isn’t one to bask in the glow of the attention he receives each time he scores these big goals, but his teammates certainly appreciate it.
“I’d like to call him Mr. Game 1, 2, 3, 4,” said Willie Mitchell. “It takes four wins, so if he can do that three more times that’d be real nice.”
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