Hours before Game 2, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter acknowledged his team was showing signs of being tired after three seven-game playoff series and a Game 1 overtime opener of the Stanley Cup Final.
Add on a double-overtime Game 2 victory and a cross-country flight to get to Game 3 on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
“They’re people,” Sutter said of his players upon their Sunday arrival in New York. “The longer series go, the longer the playoffs go, the courage and determination, the extra effort,” is what compensates for lost energy.
“You’re never going to be fresh, never going to feel as good as you did in November. That’s the way it works.”
Kings forward Justin Williams said his teammates are doing the best they can to find rest when they can. They slumbered almost in unison on the six-hour flight to New York.
“We’ll be fine,” Williams said. “It’s the Cup Final, no excuse for not being ready prepared, or being too tired … get yourself ready.”
On Saturday, in the team’s third consecutive overtime game and third straight rally from a two-goal deficit, Williams answered a first-period turnover that led to a New York goal by contributing three assists.
“You want to atone for a mistake, certainly, but you want to be at your best,” he said. “Anytime you get scored on … We’ve got to get that one back. … We got that one back and said, ‘You know what, why can’t we be the difference, why can’t we be the line to get it going?’”
Kings forward Marian Gaborik scored his 13th playoff goal on Saturday, leading the NHL.
“Three [overtimes] in a row, that’s pretty tough,” Gaborik said. “We’re all in this together. It’s tough sport to begin with. To play this many periods the last three games, it’s a lot of hockey. But, you know, everyone is going to find energy tomorrow, and we’ll be ready to go.”
Giving Gaborik extra incentive to maintain energy is that Game 3 is his first at Madison Square Garden since the Rangers traded him in April 2013 for three current Rangers, center Derrick Brassard, forward Derek Dorsett and defenseman John Moore.
Gaborik scored 94 goals in four seasons for New York, but there’s been sentiment that the Rangers would’ve never reached the final without dealing him.
“That gives you extra jump,” Gaborik said. “Obviously, it’s nice to be up there [in scoring]. But, you know, it’s a team game and I’m grateful to be in my first final as many years as I was in the league. Playing the Rangers makes it a little more special. They’re a good team, balanced team. The coaching change [from John Tortorella to Alain Vigneault] for them seemed to help.”
To be in the Rangers’ dressing room after Game 2 and see the players’ dejection over blowing a two-goal lead and their agitation over what they saw as goalie interference, was to wonder if this team is toast.
But the Kings, after pinning eight goals on New York star goalie Henrik Lundqvist through two games, aren’t going to let themselves wonder.
“Teams don’t make it this far out of luck,” Williams said. “Teams are here for a reason. They’ve been resilient. Do we feel we’ve broken them? No, absolutely not. We should know that more than anybody, that it’s tough to put a team down. Especially when you’re playing for the Stanley Cup.”
Rangers’ active forward Mats Zuccarello, who had a goal, assist and six hits in Game 2, said his team is recalling its rally from 3-1 against Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“We got a lot of leaders on our team, guys that have been a part of winning teams and playoff runs,” Zuccarello said. “We have to learn a little bit about the past series and just go from there.”
Kings center Jeff Carter hurt his left leg when he was hit into the boards in Game 2 and briefly exited before finishing point-less with one hit and two attempts blocked. Sutter pointed to the 20-plus minutes Carter played after getting hurt and said he didn’t want to provide the Rangers any injury information.
Sutter acknowledged the fact that defenseman Robyn Regehr hadn’t played in five weeks swayed him to keep Matt Greene in the lineup. Greene assisted Dwight King’s controversial goal when Lundqvist pleaded for goalie interference.
“Those are things that happen in playoff hockey,” Vigneault said of the no-call. “Usually they even themselves out, and that’s what we’re going to hope moving forward.”
Sutter also praised defenseman Drew Doughty’s 41-plus minutes of ice time despite not getting a shot on goal.