LOS ANGELES – The world again watches Drew Doughty, stealth Norris Trophy candidate, master of the after-midnight EDT moments, the 212th degree of this boiling Kings pot.
And, with everyone in town for the Stanley Cup Final, Doughty was the subject of the favorite media game: All That, or Not All That?
The answer in Game 1 Wednesday night was ... Yes.
Doughty tried to toe-drag a puck at the Rangers’ blue line in the first period and lost control. His defense partner, Jake Muzzin, fell as he turned. That let Swedish speedball Carl Hagelin roll in on Jonathan Quick and give New York a 1-0 lead, and belief.
It was 2-0 before the Kings overcame their United Center hangover. A goal of incalculable value by Kyle Clifford, near the end of the first period, helped settle everything. And then Doughty got a pass from Justin Williams and darted and dashed and fired the tying goal past Henrik Lundqvist.
The difference is this: A lot of defensemen suffer by the faux pas that overcame Doughty early. Only a couch-ful of defensemen can duplicate Doughty’s act of redemption.
The Kings slowly seized control, leaned on Quick to get it to overtime, and then Williams beat Lundqvist after New York’s Dan Girardi couldn’t clear the puck and Mike Richards gathered it. They won, 3-2 in overtime, in a game that might torture the Rangers for a long time.
“We were skating in mud tonight,” Willie Mitchell said.
“Jonathan Quick was our best player tonight,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “I know we weren’t on full tanks.”
“We have a lot of things to clean up,” Williams said.
There is a difference in making those confessions when you win.
The Rangers ambushed the Kings in the first period. “I don’t think we were prepared for their speed,” Williams said. They played airtight five-man hockey. They fought the Kings to a standstill in faceoffs. They made it remarkably difficult for the Kings to escape their zone. Their smaller players were not stapled against the boards. Lundqvist was himself in goal.
They were in glorious position to pilfer Game 1 from a team that was just back from an emotional and physical Everest in Chicago, and had heard for 48 hours about how the engravers were already putting their names on the Cup. And yet the Rangers couldn’t finish, around the net or on the scoreboard.
“I really don’t know what happened in the third period,” Coach Alain Vigneault said after the Kings took the first 13 shots of said period.
Artisans like Clifford had a lot to do with it. But artists such as Doughty and Quick are usually the ones who take it home.