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.