Two goal leads were almost taboo through round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The trend—much to the chagrin of the Rangers—made a cameo for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Despite netting a quick pair on the road to open the scoring, the Blueshirts were unable to hold off a Kings rally, and eventually fell in overtime to Los Angeles 3-2 at the Staples Center Wednesday night.
The Rangers got on the board first with in a short span in the game's first 20. About midway through the frame, Drew Doughty tried to make a drag play at the blue line, but was poke-checked by Benoit Pouliot. With nothing but open ice ahead of him, Pouliot broke in on Jonathan Quick and beat him up high to make it a 1-0 game.
Only 1:42 later, the Rangers would find the back of the net again, only this time shorthanded. With Mats Zuccarello in the box, Carl Hagelin was able to beat everyone down the ice with the puck. While Quick made the initial save, the rebound deflected off the skate of Slava Voynov, and into the back of the net to double New York's lead to 2-0.
As Los Angeles has all postseason though, they rallied back from a two-goal deficit. Only 2:30 after Hagelin lit the lamp, the Kings halved the Rangers' lead. Derek Stepan failed to clear the puck out of the zone, and the Kings got in on the forecheck. As the puck came out above the goal line, Kyle Clifford got position on Marc Staal, and chipped the puck over Henrik Lundqvist's shoulder to make it 2-1 heading into the second.
The only goal in the middle 20 minutes belonged to Los Angeles, as Doughty made up for his first period turnover. Justin Williams hit Doughty trailing the play, and he dragged it through his own legs past Derek Dorsett. Doughty carried the puck down low, and fired it under Lundqvist's arm to knot the score at two at the 6:36 mark.
While the first two periods were played pretty evenly, the Kings dominated the third. Los Angeles fired the first 13 shots on goal, and held an 20-3 shots advantage in the frame. The Rangers did well keeping the Kings to the outside, but still had little of the puck, and no quality scoring chances.
The last minute of the third though provided some frantic moments, and a few near-misses. It began with another shorthanded chance for the Rangers, in an almost identical situation to the Hagelin goal. Again, Hagelin was able to break in a man down, but Quick managed to get a piece of his shot. As Los Angeles carried the puck end-to-end, Jeff Carter nearly beat Lundqvist on a wrap-around, but the combined efforts of a sprawling goalie and Hagelin managed to keep the puck out.
The Rangers found their footing in overtime, but were felled by a costly turnover. On the decisive goal, Los Angeles hit the blue line on a 3-on-2, but appeared to miss the opportunity after coughing up the puck. But as Dan Girardi had a chance to make a play in his own zone, he whiffed, and then put the puck on Mike Richards tape. The former Flyer sent it down low to Justin Williams, who beat Lundqvist over the shoulder for the game-winner.
It was a tough game for Girardi, who struggled to deal with the Kings forecheck pressure, while no blunder stood out more than the turnover that led to the overtime goal.
Lundqvist continued his stellar stretch of play, stopping 40 shots on the day, including 20 attempts in the third period when the Rangers were getting dominated in puck possession.
As far as other Rangers who stood out, McDonagh played a strong game at both ends of the ice, while Hagelin's speed was again on display and effected the game. Rick Nash also was very involved, registering three shots on goal, and winning puck battles in the offensive zone.
Game 2 will be played Saturday night in Los Angeles, with the Rangers looking to even up the series before it shifts back to New York.