The New York Rangers returned home Sunday with a bad taste in their mouth.
Unable to hold a two-goal lead on three occasions in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Kings, the Rangers had plenty to rue in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final at Staples Center on Saturday night.
But they were especially upset at a non-call early in the third period when Dwight King scored to pull the Kings to within one at 4-3.
As Justin Williams moved the puck to Matt Greene at the point, the six-foot-four 230-pound King headed to goal as he had done all night. Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh engaged him at the top of the blue paint and soon King, McDonagh and goalie Henrik Lundqvist were tangled together like a three-headed octopus.
King somehow managed to tip Greene’s shot from the point as Lundqvist was unable to move.
Marian Gaborik scored 5:38 later to tie it at 4-4 and Dustin Brown’s tip-in of a Willie Mitchell shot ended the drama at 10:26 of double overtime.
On the wrong end of two overtime contests, the Rangers trail two games to none going into Game 3 Monday at Madison Square Garden.
Asked it was goalie interference on the King goal, a tight-lipped Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said: “Ask the NHL.”
Goalie interference is not reviewable under the current rules.
Lundqvist was clearly unhappy, throwing his arms up in disbelief after the goal as he was pinned under King and McDonagh. He talked to the referee during a TV timeout soon after, seeking an explanation.
Lundqvist said after the game that he just wanted consistency, pointing to a goalie interference penalty to Rangers forward Benoit Pouliot in the second period.
“If they don’t call that, you can’t call that they called in the second period,” said Lundqvist, who thought Pouliot had been pushed into Jonathan Quick.
“We have the same play and they score. Like I said, I don’t think it’s a penalty but you’ve got to stop the play if the goalie can’t move in his crease. And it’s not like I’m outside the crease. I play pretty deep. Just be consistent with it.”
Kings forward Jeff Carter was called for goalie interference in the first overtime period, after contact with Lundqvist that left the New York goaltender taking his time to get his equilibrium back.
Still Rangers forward Derek Stepan also didn’t like what he saw on the King goal.
“I don’t really want to get myself worked up right now,” he said. “From my point of view, I think that their (King’s) goal shouldn’t have even happened. But I’m not the one making the calls, I’m the one playing. I’m not the one that saw what he saw and we go from there.”
King was a thorn in the Rangers’ side all night, screening Lundqvist on Willie Mitchell’s second-period goal.
Vigneault tried to look at the positives.
“Both games we had opportunities,” he said. “We didn’t get it done. We’re going home in front of our great fans. We’re going to be ready for the next game. ”
The non-call was just one of many talking points. Like the Kings, the Rangers were punished for mistakes. And they had chances to score, with Jonathan Quick stopping Brad Richards at point-blank range in the third and Chris Kreider hitting the post in overtime.
Lundqvist pointed to the razor-edge margin in the first two games.
“It’s just one bounce here and there and it’s a different score. We came up short in two games. Now we have to go home to New York and turn this around.”
Stepan said the goal for New York was simple.
“Just relax and play. We’ve got to make sure we take care of ourselves, get home and get that Garden rocking.”
Los Angeles was judged to have yielded 33 giveaways Saturday, to 15 from New York. That’s 51 giveaways from LA in two games, compared to 25 for the Rangers.
Kings centre Anze Kopitar is expecting a Rangers pushback at Madison Square Garden.
“We can play better hockey. And we’ve done it before. Everybody knows that we’re going to have to do it at MSG because their building is going to be loud,” Kopitar said. “I’m sure they’re going to be very desperate. They’re going to throw everything at us that they’ve got and we’re going to have to match all of the above.”
The Rangers’ loss came despite leading 4-2 after 40 minutes. That snapped their 10-0 record when leading after two periods this post-season.
Forty-eight teams have taken a 2-0 series lead since the Stanley Cup final went to the best-of-seven format in 1939. Of those clubs, 43 (89.9 per cent) have gone on to win the Cup, including the 2012 Kings.
Home teams sweeping Games 1 and 2 of the Cup final have gone 32-3 (.914 per cent). But two of the exceptions were recent with Pittsburgh (2009 against Detroit) and Boston (2011 against Vancouver) rallying to win the Cup.
© The Canadian Press, 2014