LOS ANGELES – The first New York Rangers shot of the third period came off the stick of Marty St. Louis on a two-on-one with Derek Stepan. He didn’t catch all of it, and Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was able to shrug it away.
A missed opportunity. It happens. What doesn’t typically happen to the Rangers, especially in this postseason: That the Kings had put 14 shots on Henrik Lundqvist in the third period before St. Louis gave the Rangers their first, 11:43 into the final frame.
From a puck possession standpoint, it was as dominated as New York has been in the 2014 playoffs.
“Overall a good game, except the third period there. We didn’t take the shots we needed,” said forward Carl Hagelin, after New York’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Kings at Staples Center in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night.
Via Extra Skater, a snapshot of the even strength possession difference between the teams from the third period on.
(The numbers on the left indicate the team’s fenwick rating, i.e. the number of unblocked shot attempts by the teams.)
“I think, in the third. We didn’t get a shot until 10 minutes in. We tried a few too many drop passes in the zone instead of trying to take the puck to the net and getting shots,” Hagelin said. “We just had way too many turnovers. We fed their transition. I don’t think it was anything they did, really.”
St. Louis agreed that the Rangers didn’t keep their offense simple enough, which played right into the Kings’ hands.
“We didn’t quite get the puck 200 feet. Did a lot of East/West stuff. They didn’t have to come back all the way in and play defense,” he said. “They kept their forecheck going. We spent a little too much time in our own zone. Tough to get off the ice. Some of the stuff we did in the third, we gotta correct.”
Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said the Kings just pouring it on in the third. "They shoot pucks from everywhere. I don't know how many shots they shot from the bottom of the circles just across the crease. They were throwing a lot of pucks at the net,” he said.
“We obviously can be better. They played better in the third period, but we turned it over more than we're normally accustomed to. There's a lot of things we can sharpen up and get better for Game 2."
If there were two themes in the Eastern Conference champs’ dressing room after the game it was that the mistakes they made were correctable, and that one of the Rangers’ clear advantages entering the series was a difference-maker in Game 1: Their speed.
Benoit Pouliot and Hagelin scored on breakaways, and Hagelin nearly had another later in the game.
“That’s going to be our key to win the series,” said Hagelin. “We did a good job of getting 2-on-1s and breakaways. We just didn’t score.”
Justin Williams did, after a Dan Girardi turnover, to end the game in overtime, leaving the Rangers wondering if they had blown a chance to turn the tide against the prohibitive favorites in the Stanley Cup Final.
“We let them get back in the game and then that third period was kind of like a snowball effect,” said Staal. “They were in our end a ton and we just weren't able to get our forecheck going like we're used to. But it's just one game, not the end of the world."
But how many games will have 40 Lundqvist saves and zero points from the Kings’ top scorers, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik? How many will be one-bounce-away overtime games? How many will feature a Kings team ripe for a conference finals hangover loss?
“There’s a lot of talk about that, but they only played one more game than us. You have to expect them to come hard,” said goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
“It’s disappointing. But at the same time, it’s just one game.”