Justin Williams usually saves his magic for Game 7s.
By now you know all about Mr. Clutch, when a series is on the line. He hasn't lost a seventh and deciding game in seven tries. He has seven goals in Game 7s, which equals Glenn Anderson's record. He has 13 points in Game 7s, which matches Doug Gilmour's record.
That's why Williams has two Stanley Cup rings, one from his play with the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes and another with the Los Angeles Kings in 2011-12. His game-winner has him a step closer to a third NHL championship as his Kings skated off with a 3-2 overtime win over the New York Rangers in the 2014 opener at Staples Center on Wednesday evening.
Mr. Clutch struck early.
"I think we've had enough of those," Williams answered, when Scott Oake of Hockey Night in Canada asked him doesn't he usually wait until Game 7 to score big goals like that.
"We had a tough start. But It was a result we wanted," said Williams, who now has six career playoff game winners.
On the game-winning play, the Kings had just muffed up a 3-on-2 break. The puck slid to Rangers shutdown defender Dan Girardi in his own end. But he had no immediate outlet because his teammates, including his defence partner Ryan McDonagh, already had abandoned the zone.
Girardi was under pressure, thanks to a forecheck from rookie Kings forward Tanner Pearson. As the Rangers defenceman stumbled backwards, he fired the puck right to Los Angeles veteran Mike Richards just inside the Rangers blue-line. Richards swiftly found Williams in the slot, and the native of Cobourg, Ont., fired a shot over the right shoulder of New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers learned a hard lesson on this night. They had the perfect start in the organization's first Stanley Cup final appearance in 20 years. Benoit Pouliot stripped Los Angeles defenceman Drew Doughty for a breakaway goal. Carl Hagelin scored a shorthanded breakaway two minutes later.
But as the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks found out in previous three rounds this spring, when you have the Kings down you don't let them back up.
The Rangers had chances to bury the Kings. Martin St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello and Dominic Moore all had golden opportunities to score a third goal with the Rangers still up 2-0, but they couldn't get their sticks on shots.
Kings of comebacks
The near misses gave the Kings life. By the time the curtain-raiser was in the second period and less than seven minutes in, Los Angeles had tied the game. They then took over the game. They outshot the Rangers 20-3 in the final 20 minutes in regulation time.
Yet, despite this dominance, the Rangers had one more chance to squeak out a victory. But Hagelin was denied by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick on a breakaway late in the third period.
"We have a lot of things to clean up, a lot of things to correct," the 32-year-old Williams said.
That may be so. But they don't need any work on their comebacks. They overcame three-game deficit in the first round against the Sharks. They overcame a 3-2 deficit in the second round to the rival Ducks. And after the Kings blew a 3-2 lead in the West final against Chicago and found themselves down 2-0 early in the series finale, the Kings roared back to score a series-clinching victory on the road in overtime.
They probably don't want to tempt fate, but the Kings pulled out another one, and now they have two days off to rest up for Game 2 on Saturday.
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