SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Alain Vigneault reviewed only portions of the video from the New York Rangers’ Stanley Cup final opener before he sat down at their oceanside hotel to explain how it got away.
The coach had already formed a few impressions, and they made him even more wary of the Los Angeles Kings.
They’re one of the best teams I’ve seen in a long time, Vigneault said Thursday. Areas to exploit, they don’t jump out at you. We’re going to have to be better than we were.
The Rangers realize they missed a golden chance to grab an early game from the weary Kings, who were 72 hours removed from a grueling, seven-game Western Conference final victory over defending champion Chicago.
New York jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period at Staples Center but was soon overwhelmed. The Kings tied it in the second, utterly dominated the third and won early in overtime on Justin Williams’ latest clutch goal.
We’re a team that’s just never going to go away, Kings forward Jeff Carter said. We’re going to play hard no matter what the score is.
Despite Vigneault’s lofty praise, the Rangers don’t seem intimidated by the 2012 Stanley Cup champions. Although New York was outshot 20-3 in the third period, Carl Hagelin was denied by Jonathan Quick on a breakaway in the last minute of regulation, barely missing a chance to steal it.
To be honest, I don’t think they had that many grade-A scoring chances in the third, Hagelin said. They had a lot of puck-possession time. They had some shots. It wasn’t really a lot of good chances. I mean, we can’t look too much into shots.
The Kings realize they’ve also got work to do after stumbling early in their first series opener at home in the entire postseason. New York’s speed on the wings surprised the Kings, leading to numerous prime scoring chances for the Rangers.
But Los Angeles’ ability to adjust during a game has been a strength throughout its remarkable playoff run. The Kings also have proved to be an incredible comeback team after rallying from four multigoal deficits to win: They’ve rallied from at least two goals down in three of their last four games, winning twice.
Note: Game 1 averaged 4,777,000 viewers, making it NBC’s second-most watched Game 1, and the second-most watched opener overall since 1999. NBC won Wednesday night’s prime time among viewers 18-to-49 with a 1.9 rating. The Kings’ win peaked at 5.7 million viewers from 10:45-11:00 p.m. It drew a 3.0 households rating, including a 10.1 in New York and a 7.1 in Los Angeles.