LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Kings moved one step closer to a second Stanley Cup title in three years after mounting a stunning fightback to beat the New York Rangers 5-4 in double overtime and end a wild Game Two on Saturday.
With the Kings trailing 2-0 and 4-2 before tying things up, captain Dustin Brown redirected a long-range shot from Willie Mitchell into the net for the game-winning goal 10:26 into the second extra period at a jubilant Staples Center.
That gave the ever-resilient Los Angeles, who have proved masters of the comeback over the past three seasons, a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven championship series after winning their third straight overtime game.
“We have to be able to come back,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter, whose team became the first ever to win three Game Sevens en route to the Stanley Cup Finals and have rallied from two goals down in their last three outings.
“You’re not going to lead every game. It’s concerning at the point where it’s hard to score three goals (in a game) so I give our team a lot of credit for scoring four and then five.”
The Kings hoisted the coveted trophy for the first time in 2012 while the Rangers, one of the National Hockey League’s Original Six franchises, have clinched the championship title on four occasions, most recently in 1994.
The speedy Rangers, back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in two decades, made an impressive start on Saturday and had four shots on goal before the Kings forced New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist to make his first save of the night.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh put the Rangers ahead with his fourth goal of the playoffs after almost 11 minutes, his long-range wrist shot from the left side finding the top right corner of the net.
With less than two minutes remaining in the first period, center Mats Zuccarello doubled New York’s lead when he tapped in a rebound at the post following several defensive lapses by Los Angeles.
The Kings pulled one back early in the second period, center Jarret Stoll scoring with a wrist shot as Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein failed to sweep the puck away with Lundqvist out of the net and sprawled on the ice.
The Rangers went ahead 3-1 midway through the period when right wing Martin St. Louis, on a power play, scored his seventh goal of the playoffs on a pass from Derek Stepan, blasting the puck into the top right corner with a one-time shot.
Kings defenseman Mitchell made it 3-2 with a thunderous strike from the blue line at 14:39 but New York countered 11 seconds later when center Derick Brassard scored from close range after poor defense by Los Angeles.
Two minutes into the third period, Los Angeles cut the deficit to 4-3 when forward Dwight King, as he fell over New York goaltender Lundqvist, scored with a deflection off a long-range blast by Matt Greene.
Swede Lundqvist, who took Vezina Trophy honors as the league’s top netminder in 2012, was visibly unhappy and twice asked officials why no call had been made on King for goaltender interference.
Less than six minutes later, Los Angeles tied the game when right wing Marian Gaborik scored his 13th goal of the playoffs after the Rangers defense failed to clear the puck but neither side was able to break the deadlock before regulation ended.
Both teams came close to scoring in the first period of extra time, the Kings killing off two power plays and the Rangers one, before Brown’s deflection under Lundqvist’s glove arm in double overtime ended the game.
Lundqvist had 39 saves on the night and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick 34 in front of a sellout crowd that included American pop star Britney Spears and Gene Simmons, the flamboyant bass guitarist for rock band Kiss.
The series shifts to New York for Game Three, which will be played at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
“Both games we had opportunities,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said of his team, who lost the series opener 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday. “We didn’t get it done.
“We played a good game tonight. We had some looks in overtime. Just couldn’t score. We’re going home in front of our great fans. We’re going to be ready for the next game.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry/Ian Ransom/Sudipto Ganguly