1) I’m going to start out with that one single play. I understand, maybe the Kings come back anyway, maybe they don’t and there’s no way to know. It sure started the comeback that did happen, though. But we’ve been saying all year long how these freakin’ inconsistent calls might eventually, or probably would eventually, cost somebody a Stanley Cup. Well, that might have been it. That one incorrect non-call might have cost the Rangers the Stanley Cup.
2) And it was the incorrect call. At the very least, it’s incidental contact that prevented Henrik Lundqvist from stopping that puck, and so at the very least it has to be no goal/no penalty. It cannot be a goal. And referee Dan O’Halloran’s explanation to Lundqvist — which he said “I don’t buy” — was that the puck was past him when the contact occurred. What a crock that is. Lundqvist said that it was a simple wrist shot that he would have been able to easily reach out and stop. But he couldn’t move because Dwight King’s XL body was on top of him. O’Halloran should be embarrassed to say that to a goalie in that situation. One more point … how is Benoit Pouliot’s bump goalie interference and Dwight King’s not? How? Anybody? The bigger problem is that nobody knows what the hell is or isn’t a penalty, especially around goaltender interference. And hasn’t all year. For two similar plays to be called so drastically differently in the same game is a shame.
4) I know a lot of you don’t want to hear it because of the result — Mark Messier used to say “there’s winning and misery” — but I though the Rangers really showed up in this game, played a nasty game right along with the much bigger Kings, banged with them, showed a lot of onions. They really did. It wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch, but in the effort and heart departments, the Rangers, for the most part brought that “A game” Alain Vigneault said they needed to bring. They were as good as the Kings throughout Game 2, and for a lot of Game 1, and they could as easily be up 2-0 or tied 1-1 as down 0-2. That the Kings haven’t led for even a second of play during the first two games tells you a lot.
5) But Game 2 was a roller coaster. Ryan McDonagh was a McMonster again, with his early hip check that sent Jeff Carter to the trainer’s room for a while, plus a goal and assist and the pass to Chris Kreider on which he didn’t get an assist, but Kreider and Derek Stepan set up Martin St. Louis for a power play goal. But he tripped over Derek Stepan and lost the puck on the Marian Gaborik goal, he lost Dustin Brown on the game-winning deflection in OT, and while he made a ton of remarkable, sometimes understated defensive plays, he had some turnovers too.
6) Kreider was downright beastly after the lousy performance in Game 1. Just punished some of the Kings players with his strength, led the team in hits, used his speed. Unfortunately, the puck hit his stick and went right to Gaborik on the tying goal in the third, and Kreider had three chances to win it in sudden death, hitting a post and twice being robbed by Jonathan Quick, once on a breakaway. Kreider made no excuses. He said “I have to score there.”
7) Another remarkable game for the Dominic Moore, Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett line.
8) On the other hand, there was the Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin line. I had no problem with Hagelin’s game, again. St. Louis had the PPG, but I thought struggled, especially defensively. And Richards was brutal. As bad as he was last season. For a guy who talked and talked about taking care of the puck, he sure coughed up a few, including the first L.A. goal when he turned it over then got badly beaten to the net by Jarrett Stoll. He struggled on the point. He was robbed by Quick late. He lost the draw on the game-winning goal. The Kings seemed to be happy, happy, happy when that line was on the ice all night. And Richards looked worn out, as if the tank was on E. As if he couldn’t keep up.
9) Just the opposite for the Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Pouliot line, which kept up and then some, backed off the Kings a lot of the night. Zuccarello had the first Cup Final goal ever by a Norwegian — after he stole the puck and went to the net, outmuscling Anze Kopitar, by the way — made the steal from Willie Mitchell and pass on Brassard’s goal 11 seconds after Mitchell had cut it to 3-2, and just missed the open top of the net in, I think it was the first OT. I can’t keep track.
10) Because those OTs were a track meet. Just mayhem. Honestly, if you didn’t have a horse in this race, it was an awesome hockey game to watch.
11) How about the pass Stepan made to St. Louis on the PPG? Did anybody curse Stepan for over-passing that time?
12) That first period kinda showed you what it’s all about, how much these guys (or any NHL players) want to win this big prize. It was take no prisoners. Nasty game. Girardi, on a hit by Stoll hurt a finger; Carter hurt a leg on the McDonagh hip check. Brown got away with an uncalled spear on Staal. Brown crosschecked McDonagh, then embellished the retaliation and the refs bought it. He also went down really easily on that collision with Zuccarello in the second, Zuccarello getting the penalty of course. The Rangers this summer should get one of those guys who can do whatever they want every shift and never get a penalty … like Brown … and Chris Neil. That said, Brown’s a heckuva player.
13) Daily Nash-O-Meter. I’m not here to defend him, not at all. I thought he played hard, played well, had s bunch of shots and good chances, drew at least one penalty. Was very good on the PK again and a force offensively. But … but … in addition to him not getting nearly enough of the bottom line, I think this is the problem. Did you see where Gaborik was when he scored? Did you see where St. Louis was when he scored? Did you see where Zuccarello and Brassard were when they scored, or where Dwight King was — even if he shouldn’t have been allowed there — when he scored? Now how many times a game to you see Nash in those spots? Right. And please stop the talk about Nash being bought out. If the Rangers do decide they don’t want him — and I doubt that — he would have trade value. It makes no sense.
14) So now it’s back to the Garden. I don’t think this is necessarily over, but it’s getting close. Getting down to the point where the Rangers have to do something really special to get back into this. Wonder how all those folks who emptied their bank accounts for tickets, and how all those secondary markets trying to steal people’s wallets are feeling about this 0-2 and all the buzz that’s disappearing?
15) I will say this, too. The Garden’s quiet, but it’s not far behind L.A.’s home rink. The Garden’s ice is better than L.A.’s ice — God, was it terrible in Game 2. Bet you never thought you’d hear that. And the Garden, for all the dumb stuff that goes on doesn’t do this: Kings took a too-many-men penalty. TV timeout. The entire break was spent on Kiss Cam. Then as play resumed much later, they finally told the fine patrons that there had been a penalty called. Awful.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Ryan McDonagh.
2. Mats Zuccarello.
3. Chris Kreider.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mats Zuccarello.
2. Rick Nash.
3. Chris Kreider.
Josh Thomson, 26’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mats Zuccarello.
2. Ryan McDonagh.
3. Derick Brassard.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Ryan McDonagh.
2. Henrik Lundqvist.
3. Chris Kreider.
Photos by Getty Images.