KingsWin2

Captain clutch: Brown scores OT winner, Kings take Game 2

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LOS ANGELES — When the Kings needed someone to step up, the captain answered the call.

Dustin Brown scored the winner 10:26 into the second overtime on Saturday night, tipping home a Willie Mitchell point shot to give the Kings a 5-4 win over the New York Rangers and two games to none lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

For Brown, the goal capped off one of his most emphatic performances of the postseason. He led all Kings forwards with six hits and finished with over 26 minutes of ice time, his highest total of the playoffs. The goal occurred during the second straight OT game played between the Rangers and Kings; it also marked the first time in NHL history that three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals opened with a pair of overtime games (L.A. and New Jersey went to extra time twice in 2012; the Bruins and ‘Hawks did it last year as well.)

Tonight’s game had plenty more to offer than just Brown’s OT heroics, however. Like in Game 1, both Los Angeles and New York engaged in an entertaining opening 60 minutes that featured a number of scoring chances.

And just like in Game 1, the Rangers couldn’t hold onto a two-goal lead.

Check that — the Rangers couldn’t hold onto three two-goal leads.

New York raced out to its first in the opening period — Ryan McDonagh opened the scoring at the 10:48 mark, and Mats Zuccarello made it 2-0 eight minutes later when he scored his fifth of the playoffs.

In the second period, L.A. wasted little time erasing the deficit.

The Kings cut the lead to one just 1:46 in, when Jarret Stoll capitalized on a bad Brad Richards turnover and some sloppy defensive zone work from New York. Ten minutes later, the Rangers restored their two-goal advantage when Martin St. Louis scored on his power play — the first Blueshirts goal with the man advantage this series — but the Kings replied almost immediately when Willie Mitchell scored his team’s first power play goal of the Stanley Cup Final at the 14:39 mark.

Eleven seconds after Mitchell scored, the Rangers took advantage of some poor Jonathan Quick puck handling (Mitchell’s wasn’t great either). Derick Brassard scored, giving New York a 4-2 lead they’d carry into the third period.

Down a pair of goals — and stop us if you’ve heard this one before — the Kings found a way to claw back.

It began with the most questionable and controversial goal of the series, as Dwight King appeared to interfere with Henrik Lundqvist while tipping home Matt Greene’s point shot. Lundqvist was livid following the goal, protesting that King was camped out in his crease; adding to the frustration was that, earlier in the game, the Rangers were whistled on a goalie interference penalty when Benoit Pouliot tangled with Jonathan Quick.

Kings’s goal stood, however, and that seemed to give L.A. the momentum it needed. Marian Gaborik snapped home his NHL-best 13th of the playoffs at the 7:36 mark, which capped the regulation scoring and sent the teams into overtime.

In the extra frames, both goalies performed well. Lundqvist stopped 11 of 12 shots to finish with 39 saves overall; Quick was perfect on all nine shots faced to finish with 34 saves on the night.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see how the Rangers respond to a second disappointing loss. They’ve now blown four two-goal leads in two games against the Kings and dropped a pair of OT defeats. For a team that will need to win at least one game at Staples to capture the Stanley Cup, those missed opportunities will loom large.

For the Kings…well, what more can be said? This team has shown remarkable resilience all postseason and did it again tonight, mounting a series of comebacks while looking completely unfazed by the prospect of falling behind. The Kings have proven to be a tough out all spring, and that’s continued through the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.

Hitchcock believes Blues’ Allen is ‘locked up mentally’

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes the third period save against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 8, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were already rough for the St. Louis Blues and their goalies (particularly still-pretty-newly crowned No. 1 Jake Allen) heading into Thursday, but the Washington Capitals really highlighted those issues in a 7-3 thrashing.

Blues fans and management must be wondering, then: what’s wrong with their goalies, especially with Allen? Head coach Ken Hitchcock seems resigned to allowing him to fight through it, if nothing else.

“There’s a lot going on right now. … He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this,” Hitchock said, according to Lou Korac of NHL.com. “What we see at practice, we like. That’s why we put him in quite frankly.”

Alex Pietrangelo did the typical deflecting thing, nothing that this is a “team” and that there are “no individuals.”

Still, Hitchcock’s longer press conference makes you wonder how much trust there is in Allen and Carter Hutton.

From Hitch’s perspective, it sure sounds like he believes that the Blues are over-correcting to try to limit “goals, shots.” By trying to do too much, they might be putting themselves in bad positions. And that might stem from a lack of confidence in the guys in net, or in the team’s work in their own zone overall.

Let’s be honest. As much as we can play chicken-or-the-egg as far as a defense’s impact on a goalie, it’s tough to explain away save percentages under .900 in the modern NHL. At some point, your team needs more stops.

With the races for the lower spots in the Western Conference’s playoff picture seemingly tightening up, the Blues don’t have a ton of time to figure this out.

Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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If you’re reaction to the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.

It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.

Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:

Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49

Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.

Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.

Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.

Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.

Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.

Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 19:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers faces a shot in the warm-up prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.

The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”

Lundqvist wasn’t oblivious to his team’s impressive overall play.

Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.

The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.

So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 8: Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stands at the bench during a break in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Canadian Tire Centre on January 8, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.

Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.

The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.

Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.

Ignoring his one relief appearance with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity, just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.

This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.

More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.