Justin Williams jumps out to early lead for Conn Smythe Trophy | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaJustin Williams jumps out to early lead for Conn Smythe Trophy

Posted: Thursday, June 5, 2014 | 11:55 AM

Back to accessibility links
Justin Williams  of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime against the New York Rangers during Game 1 on Wednesday in Los Angeles. (Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) Justin Williams of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime against the New York Rangers during Game 1 on Wednesday in Los Angeles. (Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Beginning of Story Content

The race for the Conn Smythe Trophy is on.

Everybody knows what you do in the first three rounds puts you in contention for the trophy, but it is your performance in the Stanley Cup final that determines your ultimate fate.
The race for the Conn Smythe Trophy is on.

Everybody knows what you do in the first three rounds puts you in contention for the trophy, but it is your performance in the Stanley Cup final that determines your ultimate fate.

In that regard, Los Angeles Kings right-winger Justin Williams just may have taken the early lead for the playoff MVP award. At the very least, the 32-year-old, two-time Stanley Cup champion drew closer to a pack of leading contenders that includes teammates Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik when he scored the overtime winner in Game 1.

Williams, who routinely saves his best hockey for the post-season, also had an assist  to mark the sixth time in this year's playoffs he has registered a multipoint game. Williams now has eight goals and 20 points in 22 games.

"He's a really good player," said Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter in what might be the understatement of the year. "He's our best right-winger every night consistently."

History shows the Conn Smythe is usually awarded to a front-line forward, top-two defender of starting goalie, but there have been times when a role player has stolen the spotlight. Claude Lemieux of the New Jersey Devils won it in 1995; Butch Goring of the New York Islanders captured it in 1981 and defensive specialist Bob Gainey of the Montreal Canadiens took it home in 1979.

"I've said it many times, Justin is the most underrated player on this team by a mile," said Kings defenceman Doughty. "He doesn't get enough credit for what he does."

Williams is making the most of his average 21.7 shifts and 16:04 ice time per game. He took advantage of an uncharacteristic Dan Girardi giveaway in overtime to decide a game that his Kings started slowly in and even trailed by two goals at one point.

Williams found himself alone in the slot with the puck and snapped a high shot past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist on his stick side.

"We'd had a three-on-two break and it got snuffed out," Williams said. "I think Girardi was falling and we were able to turn it over. [Mike] Richards was able to get me the puck and I had a little bit of time and I shot one over his shoulder."

Comebacks all the rage

The Kings' comeback from a two-goal deficit in Game 1 of the final marked the 14th time in this year's playoffs a team has won after trailing by two goals. It was the fourth time the Kings have done it.  The last time a team did that was 1987 when the Philadelphia Flyers did it five times.

The Kings looked decidedly sluggish early in the game after their emotional seven-game win in the Western Conference final against Chicago, but were delighted to get the victory.

"We have a lot of things to clean up and a lot of things to correct, but we're happy with the result," Williams said.

Added Doughty who coughed up the puck on the Rangers opening goal, but later made amends scoring one of his own: "That's not the way we want to start games. Kind of got us off on the wrong foot. We showed a lot of character to come back."

Odds favour Kings

The team that won the opening game of the Stanley Cup final has won the championship in 57 of 74 seasons.

Paging Anze Kopitar

The Kings No. 1 centre continues to lead the playoffs in scoring with 24 points in 22 games, but when it comes to goal-scoring, he has all but disappeared. After being held pointless in Game 1 against the Rangers, Kopitar has now gone eight games without scoring a goal and has just one goal in his last 15 games.

Kopitar had four goals and 15 points in his first 10 games in the playoffs, but in the next 12 has just a goal and nine points.

Prior to the game, Wayne Gretzky proclaimed Kopitar is the third best player in the NHL behind only Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Great One might get an argument from fans of Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning, not to mention fans of Doughty.

Coach's dry wit

It was pointed out to Kings coach Darryl Sutter that his team limited the Rangers to just three shots on goal in the third period.

"Is that a question?" Sutter wondered. "I know they only had three shots. I agree with you."

End of Story Content

Back to accessibility links

Story Social Media

End of Story Social Media

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.