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

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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.

Report: Wings, Hawks, Preds in mix to sign ‘strong two-way center’ Ejdsell

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Keep an eye on Swedish forward Victor Ejdsell in the coming days.

Ejdsell, 21, caught the eye of several NHL clubs following a standout year with Bofors of the Swedish first division — including Detroit (where he visited earlier this week, per MLive.) Reports suggest that Chicago and Nashville are also interested in securing Ejdsell’s services.

It’s easy to see why.

He racked up 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games this year, and he’s got terrific size. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, the physical presence is there to potentially make the shift to the NHL next season.

“He’s evolved into a strong two-way center,” Detroit assistant GM Ryan Martin told MLive. “His move from wings to center helped his defensive game. He’s got good hands and offensive ability.”

Vlasic joins Canada for Worlds, extending marathon campaign

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic is putting in work this year.

On Friday, Hockey Canada announced that Vlasic — along with Mitch Marner, Brayden Schenn and Chad Johnson — has been added to the 22-player roster for the upcoming World Hockey Championship in France and Germany.

Vlasic’s season started early as a member of Canada’s World Cup of Hockey squad. He appeared in all six games, which included his tournament high TOI (24:04) in final against Team Europe.

From there, the 30-year-old rejoined the Sharks and appeared in 75 contests, averaging 21:14 per evening. He was part of a remarkably durable San Jose defense that saw Brent Burns play all 82 games, while Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun appeared in 81.

In the playoffs, Vlasic was once again a busy guy. He finished second only to Burns in time on ice (23:16 per) and was often tasked with trying to shut down the Connor McDavid line. The Sharks would eventually bow out to the Oilers in six games.

And Vlasic might have even more to do this summer.

During his end-of-year media availability, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said getting Vlasic signed to an extension prior to September’s training camp was a big priority.

Vlasic’s current deal — a five-year, $21.25 million pact — expires next summer, and carries an average cap hit of $4.25M. Wilson didn’t mince words in describing how good he thinks Vlasic is.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” he said. “Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

Stepan: ‘I’ve stunk since the playoffs started’

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Derek Stepan knows he’s not playing very well, and he knows he’ll have to be better if the New York Rangers are going to make it past the Ottawa Senators.

With just one goal (an empty-netter) and one assist in seven playoff games, Stepan’s offensive production has fallen off a cliff after a respectable 55-point regular season, which included 38 assists.

“I’ve stunk since the playoffs started,” Stepan said, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I’ve been not very good with the puck.”

An all-situations center, Stepan is more than just an offensive type. But he’s produced in previous playoff runs, and the Rangers need him to produce now — especially against a tight-checking Sens team that boasts a 2.00 goals-against average¬†in these playoffs.

Stepan has 45 points (18G, 27A) in 92 career playoff games.

To be fair, he’s not the only Ranger who needs to get going offensively. One of the Blueshirts’ big strengths during the regular season was their balanced scoring, with all four lines contributing — and that’s not happening right now.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.