LOS ANGELES – Mr. Game 7 was the hero of Game 1.
Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi failed to control and clear the puck, sending it right to Mike Richards on the boards. He fed to Williams in the slot, who beat Henrik Lundqvist with a perfectly placed shot.
It was the first championship playoff game between teams from New York and Los Angeles since 1981, when the Yankees and Dodgers met in the World Series.
The game featured a battle between goalies Henrik Lundqvist (40 saves) of the Rangers, statistically the best in the postseason entering the game, and Jonathan Quick (25 saves) of the Kings, the 2012 MVP who was inconsistent in the previous three rounds. Neither was perfect, but both made several outstanding stops.
The Rangers took the lead at 13:21 of the first period, using their speed advantage in the series to convert:
Mike Richards missed on a pass, but it was collected by Drew Doughty. He promptly turned it over to Pouliot, trying to be way too fancy with the puck at the blue line. Pouliot streaked down the ice and caught a break when his pursuer, Jake Muzzin, fell at center ice. Alone against Quick, he buried a high shot against the Kings goalie for the 1-0 lead.
It was 2-0 at 15:03 when the Rangers again used speed to their advantage. With Mats Zuccarello in the box for holding, Carl Hagelin intercepted the puck and took off, blowing by Slava Voynov. His shot was saved by Quick, but the puck bounced off the skate of Voynov and behind Quick. It was Hagelin’s seventh of the post-season, from Brian Boyle and Ryan McDonagh.
Just like they did in their Game 7 win against the Blackhawks, the Kings erased a two-goal deficit.
The Kings cut the lead on a great shift from Kyle Clifford and Jeff Carter. Carter went to the net hard with the puck, and Clifford just missed on a shot wide to Lundqvist’s left. The Rangers couldn’t clear thanks to a strong forecheck from Clifford, who found Carter for another chance before Clifford himself roofed the puck past Lundqvist for his first of the playoffs at 17:33.
In the second period, Doughty atoned for his earlier toe-drag mistake with a dazzling goal to tie it.
Justin Williams found the Kings star defensmean with a pass at the top of the zone. Doughty deked Derek Dorsett with a nasty drag and moved in on Lundqvist. Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman was busy holding the stick of Mike Richards, allowing Doughty to skate in and find room between Lundqvist’s arm and body for his fifth at 6:36. And the game was tied.
The third period featured a dominating performance by the Kings, who outshot the Rangers 20-3. The last minutes were total chaos, as Boyle took a slashing penalty against Toffoli at 18:24. In an eerie combination of the Rangers’ previous goals, Hagelin was stopped on a breakaway and then attempted to bank the puck behind Quick to no avail.
Then at the other end, Lundqvist made an incredible diving save on Jeff Carter, who attempted to bank the puck in himself.