LOS ANGELES — It’s true that hockey is a game of mistakes. But this is getting ridiculous.
Just two games into the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and the list of costly, glaring blunders is already a lengthy one, on both sides.
In Game 1, Drew Doughty and Dan Girardi each had gaffes that led to goals for the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings, respectively.
In Game 2 – a contest that was played after a two-day break that was supposed to provide a refreshing respite for tired participants – Justin Williams had a turnover that led to a goal, and so did Brad Richards. Matt Greene made a couple of goofs that led to goals. Jonathan Quick and Willie Mitchell had a mix-up that led to a goal. There was a too many men penalty on the Kings, which led to a goal. Oh, and Ryan McDonagh tried to stick-handle when he shouldn’t have. Which led to a goal.
At least the overtime winner, a clever tip by L.A. captain Dustin Brown, was devoid of glaring error.
“You don’t want to do it, but it happens,” Kings forward Anze Kopitar said of all the mistakes. “They have some speedy guys that create turnovers. That’s just what’s going to happen sometimes. It is what it is.”
“Quite honestly, we’re not happy with how we’ve started these two games,” said Mitchell. “At all. It’s the Stanley Cup finals and you know everyone in this room cares. So much. But we haven’t executed, we haven’t executed well in the first half of games. It baffles everyone in here. It’s not a place we want to be in to have to climb out of all the time. Sooner or later it’s going to bite you in the ass.”
“Right now we’re doing a lot of things that aren’t in our game, haven’t been in our game for years here,” said Jarret Stoll. “We’re getting away with it I think right now. … It’s a game of mistakes. We made some mistakes on those goals, they’re in our net. You’re not going to blame your goalie. They made some mistakes that made it into their net. I’m sure that’s what they’ll say.”
“We still have huge room for improvement,” said Williams. “We can only get better. That’s the positive that we need to get out of this.”
The Kings could take solace that both games ended with L.A. victories, putting them just two wins away from their second championship in three years, despite the aforementioned poor starts in both Games 1 and 2.
The Rangers, meanwhile, were once again left to wonder what could have been. In Game 2, they had a 2-0 lead. And a 3-1 lead. And a 4-2 lead. All for naught.
“We blew another two-goal lead,” said New York’s Chris Kreider. “We lost in overtime. I had two Grade-A opportunities and didn’t finish, so I have to execute better.”
“They’ve been in three Game 7’s and come out on top,” said Girardi. “[The Kings] were Stanley Cup champions a couple years ago. They know what it takes to win. They’re getting those good bounces, those good plays in front.
“We’re just going to have to find a way to, when we have the lead, to hold on to it, especially against a team like this. We know they’re going to be coming. They have all that experience over there and we need to be ready for that.”
The good news for the Rangers is they haven’t lost at home yet. And if we’ve learned one thing from these playoffs, it’s that momentum can shift in a series, no matter how in control one team seems and how devastated everyone thinks the other should be.
Game 3 goes Monday at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers will be hoping for a lift from the home crowd.
“I think we’ve played close to nine periods now,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “For the most part I’ve liked a lot of things about our game. Our guys are trying real hard. We’re going to continue to try. I mean, both games we had opportunities. We didn’t get it done.
“We’re going home in front of our great fans. We’re going to be ready for the next game.”
And if there’s one coach who should know about 2-0 leads in the Cup final, it’s Vigneault, whose former Vancouver side looked in control of the 2011 final after two wins at home, before the Bruins stormed back to win four of five, starting with a blowout victory in Boston in Game 3.
History, of course, says teams that lose the first two games of the final on the road are in big trouble. The all-time record of those teams is 3-32.
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