LOS ANGELES – Las cucarachas de Los Angeles. The logo won’t sell a lot of jerseys, but oh well.
They’re a rare species of skating, shooting cockroaches, these Kings. One of their players came up with the name, and it fits. Smack them, spray them, try to crush them against the wall, and they slither away.
Besides, no humans have ever done what this team has accomplished. Three times in seven days, the Kings trailed by two goals in a playoff game and rallied to win. They pulled the trick on the New York Rangers on Saturday and won, 5-4, in double overtime in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Dustin Brown tipped in a point shot by Willie Mitchell, in the 91st minute of play, and the Kings celebrated on weary legs in front of a roaring, relieved, standing-room-only crowd of 18,532 at Staples Center.
“It baffles everyone in here,” Mitchell said of the Kings’ ability to rally. “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 (butt).”
Not yet, and consider this: the Kings played 220 minutes, 49 seconds, of hockey in a one-week span, and didn’t lead any of it. They overcame a first-period, 2-0 deficit to beat Chicago in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final, then did the same thing to the Rangers, twice, to take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-7 series.
The Kings played the second-longest game in franchise history and became the first team in NHL history to win three consecutive playoff games in which they faced a multi-goal deficit.
“That’s an interesting stat,” winger Justin Williams, who had three assists, said with a weary grin. “I think I’m pretty much just going to regurgitate what we said after last game. It’s a terrible start. Able to come back and get a big win in overtime. Games could have gone either way, but we found a way.”
The Kings saved their best magic for Saturday. Beset, again, by early-game turnovers and difficulty managing the Rangers’ speed and gritty forechecking, the Kings trailed 2-0 at the end of the first period.
They made it 2-1, then trailed 3-1, then made it 3-2, then gave up what seemed to be a backbreaking goal, 11 seconds later, by Mats Zuccarello that gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead after two periods.
The game turned on a controversial play 1:58 into the third period, when Dwight King tipped in a point shot by Matt Greene. The Rangers, particularly goalie Henrik Lundqvist, were furious in their belief that King, while tied up with Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, had interfered with Lundqvist.
“I'm extremely disappointed on that call or non-call,” Lundqvist said. “They got to be consistent with that rule.”
Less than six minutes later, the Kings tied it 4-4 on Marian Gaborik’s goal, and that’s where it stayed for the next 42:50, despite some breathless moments and huge stops by Lundqvist (39 saves) and Jonathan Quick (34).
After three penalties in the first, scoreless overtime period, the game settled down in the second session and ended, as such things usually do, with a harmless looking play. Mitchell, who scored on a point shot in the second period, wound up again and Brown, tied up in the slot, deflected it past Lundqvist.
“Usually it’s not a very pretty goal,” center Anze Kopitar said. “That’s what happened. I know it’s a cliche, but every shot is a good shot in overtime, and it turned out to be that way.”
The Kings were in familiar territory, having reached overtime for the fourth time in their last five games. Since the start of the second-round series against the Ducks, the Kings are 4-1 in overtime games.
“I don’t know what it is,” Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “It’s hard to explain but we’ve got a calm belief in here that we can win every game no matter what the score is and no matter what the situation is.”
This is the strangest of series, for any number of reasons. The Rangers face a 2-0 deficit even though, except for the third periods of Games 1 and 2 and parts of the overtimes, they’ve played quite well.
Still, center Brian Boyle wanted nothing of the suggestion that the Rangers, who entered the series as fairly heavy betting underdogs, could feel positive going home for Game 3 on Monday.
“I don’t give a (expletive) about underdogs,” Boyle said. “That’s ridiculous. Give me a break. We’re not. We’re here, too. We’re a good team. And we can’t take any solace, because we lost. We came here to win games. It doesn’t matter how the hell we do it, we have to win the game.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org