2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One

Kings know they got away with one

17 Comments

LOS ANGELES — You didn’t have to tell the Los Angeles Kings they started the Stanley Cup Final badly. They knew it. And they don’t plan to do it again.

“Obviously not the way we drew it up,” said forward Mike Richards, talking about the 2-0 deficit his team fell into early versus the New York Rangers, despite ultimately fighting back to earn a 3-2 overtime victory.

“Didn’t have our ‘A’ game today, but we battled. We got a couple of bounces and ended up getting the win. We know we have to be better. … We probably got a little lucky tonight.”

Falling behind and battling back has become a theme for the Kings in these playoffs, and all sorts of theories were floating around trying to explain their sloppy start to Game 1 of the Cup final, which came on home ice in front of a supportive Staples Center crowd.

Were they still thinking about the Chicago Blackhawks? Did they underestimate the underdog Rangers? Maybe they just enjoy playing with fire?

“The game of hockey, you’re not going to have your legs every single night,” shrugged Richards. “Just chalk it up to one of those days I guess.”

But coach Darryl Sutter had another theory.

“I think [the Rangers] had a lot of energy and were fresh,” he said. “If you look at their playoffs in the first periods, they’ve had really good first periods every game. You look at it, not I think, I know, that we were not on full tanks.”

And Sutter was none too pleased with all the chances his team gave up, including the breakaway that his best defenseman, Drew Doughty, served up in the first period to New York’s Benoit Pouliot, who promptly opened the scoring.

“You don’t want to trade chances with the New York Rangers,” said Sutter. “I said it yesterday and I’ve said it every day. If you have to score more than three goals, you’re going to have trouble. If you trade chances, in the end you’re going to have trouble.”

Meanwhile, Sutter’s counterpart, Alain Vigneault, was left perplexed at how his team could start so well, then fade away and get outshot 20-3 in the third period.

Did Vigneault feel the Rangers let the Kings off the hook?

“I feel when you play against such a good opponent that has all that strength you need to play a full game,” said Vigneault. “For whatever reason tonight, we just weren’t good enough in the third.”

For New York forward Brad Richards, it was a bad news-good news thing. Yes, the loss was disappointing, but “at the same time, we can play with them, too.”

A two-day break before Saturday’s Game 2 gives both teams time to regroup, look at some video, and figure out what needs to be fixed.

“It’s a great result of the hockey game for us, definitely,” said overtime hero Justin Williams. “But we have a lot of things to clean up. Certainly not our best game by any standards. Especially ours.”

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

1 Comment

Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

7 Comments

The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

18 Comments

The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

***

Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

11 Comments

With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.