How do they keep skating? How do we keep breathing?
The Kings pulled off another unlikely comeback Saturday night in a spring full of them, fighting back for nearly five full periods of hockey before turning the Staples Center ice into a dancing, sweating mass of black and belief.
How do they keep standing? How do the New York Rangers keep from folding?
At 10:26 of the second overtime, with the Staples Center crowd rollicking with noise and exhaustion, the Kings took firm control of the Stanley Cup Final with a game-winning deflection of a Willie Mitchell laser by Dustin Brown, who knocked the puck past the great goalie Henrik Lundqvist and then ended the longest night with the widest of toothless smiles.
Kings 5, Rangers 4, Stanley Cup close enough to touch.
The Kings lead this series two games to none, which shouldn't be such a big deal considering both of the games have been at Staples Center. But, there's a couple of factors here that makes those two wins already feel like four.
The Kings have won both games without leading for one second during regulation. They have won both after coming back from 2-0 deficits against a goalie who is the best in the world at protecting those kind of leads. And now they go on the road, where they are 7-5 in this postseason with three of those wins coming in a Game 7.
The Rangers have to be spooked. The Rangers certainly look cooked.
If nothing else, they are left wondering, how in Gotham can a team that entered this series with a 10-0 postseason record in games they led after two periods have lost like they did Saturday night, after leading, 4-2, following 40 minutes.
“We had a lot of looks,” said the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh. “But it didn't matter.”
No, it didn't matter, and it's not going to matter as long as the Kings keep behaving with the boyish, relentless joy of those who keep fooling the teacher into giving them extra time at recess. Long after Saturday's game, Brown showed up for his interview session wearing not a customary postgame suit, but a black Kings' hoodie. He spent most of session smiling and rubbing his hand through his messy hair.
“We're getting away with it, I think, right now,” said a grinning Jarret Stoll, sitting next to Brown in a coat and tie.
The Kings trailed 2-0 in the first period Saturday night for the second consecutive game of this series.
They scored a goal, but then quickly trailed by two goals again. They scored another goal, yet fell behind by two goals again.
That's three two-goal deficits if you're counting, but who is counting anymore? Even before the finals began, everyone had given up counting Kings rallies, there have been so many, a comeback from the three-games-to-none deficit to the San Jose Sharks, a comeback from the three-games-to-two deficit against the Ducks, well, you get the historic picture.
“We're getting used to it, I guess,” said Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin of the comebacks. “You just battle. You're in the zone, you're playing, you're having fun and that's what it's all about.”
On Saturday night, the comeback was especially stirring because it came with two goals in the third period that featured a broken rule and a broken spirit.
First, the broken rule, which occurred when Dwight King closed the gap to 4-3 at 1:58 of the period when he scored on a pass from Matt Greene while knocking down Lundqvist.
That's right, King interfered with the Rangers' goalie. It was goalie interference. It was clear. It was undeniable. King knocked him flatter than the “V” in his last name. Yes, he was also being pushed by McDonagh, but the contact was obvious, and when Lundqvist finally sat up, he pounded his fists on the ice in protest for several long minutes.
“I'm extremely disappointed on that call or non-call,” said Lundqvist afterward. “A goalie can't move when you have a guy like that on top of you. It's such an important play of that game.”
There is no coach's instant replay challenge in hockey. The Rangers just had to deal with the bad call as every other opponent has had to deal with Kings magic this spring. But, like other opponents, they couldn't handle it.
Not six minutes after King's goal, the frustrated McDonagh fell in his zone, lost the puck, and the Kings' Marion Gaborik wound up putting it in the net for the tying goal that held up until the Kings' double overtime winner.
The home team's luck extended to even the arena temperature, as Staples Center felt warmer than it had in the series opener, with kids even dancing around with no shirts. Maybe this is why the ice seemed uneven, with pucks slopping and flopping. At one point, one of the Rangers sprayed so much ice in the air, Quick covered his mask as if in a snowstorm.
Because uneven ice favors a slower team, conspiracy theorists will wonder whether the Kings hired the air conditioning guys from San Antonio. But in the end, the only conspiracy here seems to be between destiny and the Kings.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times