Justin (over) time: Williams the OT hero as Kings take Game 1


On Wednesday night, Mr. Game 7 was Mr. Game 1.

Justin Williams, the NHL’s all-time leader in Game 7 scoring, netted the overtime winner to give the L.A. Kings a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center.

The goal came just 4:36 into the extra frame and is one Rangers alternate captain Dan Girardi will want to forget. His defensive-zone turnover landed ended up on the stick of Williams, who made no mistake sniping past Henrik Lundqvist for his eighth goal of the postseason.

Williams’ winner came after an entertaining regulation period loaded with scoring chances.

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead late in the first period, capitalizing on a pair of L.A. mistakes in less than two minutes. The first came when Benoit Pouliot took advantage of a Drew Doughty turnover and buried his breakaway chance past Jonathan Quick; 102 seconds later, Carl Hagelin scored in a somewhat similar fashion when he sped past Slava Voynov for a breakaway chance that was saved by Quick, but deflected in off the Kings blueliner.

Undeterred, the Kings clawed back and cut the lead to one when Kyle Clifford scored his first goal of the playoffs with 2:30 left in the first. That gave L.A. life, and it carried the momentum into the second period when Drew Doughty knotted the score at two, with a nifty individual effort.

It was almost fitting tonight’s game went to OT. It was the 24th overtime game of this postseason, and the second consecutive Stanley Cup Final to open with overtime after Chicago and Boston went to triple-OT in Game 1 last year. It was also the third time in four games Los Angeles went to an extra session.

For the Rangers, tonight’s loss will be disheartening. They had a tremendous chance to gain a split of the games in Los Angeles and won’t be happy about blowing a two-goal lead. The Blueshirts also squandered a solid effort from Lundqvist, who stopped 40 of 43 shots.

For the Kings, the win continued their postseason resiliency narrative. A team that trailed in both of its first two series and three times in Game 7 against Chicago once again found a way to rally and emerge the victor, and is now just three wins away from its second Stanley Cup in three seasons.

Habs claim Byron off waivers from Flames

Paul Byron
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Montreal added some forward depth on Tuesday, acquiring diminutive forward Paul Byron off waivers from Calgary.

Byron, 26, is a veteran of nearly 150 career NHL games, most coming with the Flames. Despite fairly solid production over the last two years — 40 points in 104 games — he was exposed to waivers on Monday, along with fellow forward Mason Raymond.

(Calgary does have a logjam of players at forward, hence parting ways with Byron and Raymond.)

Byron can play both wing and center but, at 5-foot-7, 153 pounds, is one of the most undersized skaters in the league. Thankfully for him, Montreal has an affinity for undersized forwards, with the likes of Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) and David Desharnais (5-foot-7, 174 pounds) already on the active roster.

Byron could also fill Zack Kassian‘s roster spot. Kassian is currently suspended without pay while undergoing Stage 2 of the NHL’s Substance Abuse program.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.