Justin Williams' flair for the dramatic allowed the Los Angeles Kings to prevail in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Williams scored 4:36 into overtime, lifting the Kings to a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers before a sellout crowd of 18,399 at Staples Center on Wednesday night.
After a turnover by New York defenseman Dan Girardi in his own end, Williams fielded a pass from center Mike Richards and converted the game-winner with a blast over the shoulder of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist just inside the near post.
"Everything offensively usually starts in our zone," said Williams, the right winger who is known for delivering in Game 7's. "Richards made a great play getting the puck out. We screwed up a 3-on-2 royally. Fortunately for us, (Girardi) turned the puck over and I was sitting in front of the net with the puck and able to make a shot."
Goalie Jonathan Quick stopped 25 shots for the Kings, while Lundqvist finished with 40 saves for the Rangers.
"We make one more play than them at the end of the day and that's what it comes down to," Quick said. "We are fortunate to get out of there with a win."
Game 2 is Saturday at Staples Center. However, Game 1 left a mark on the Rangers.
"It's a fast game and it happens," Lundqvist said. "It's disappointing when you lose, especially when you're that close. We had a really strong start to the game and then I think they started their push late in the first. Obviously, in the third, they had a lot of the puck, but I felt like we kept them outside for the most part."
Williams and left winger Kyle Clifford each had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who came back from a 2-0 deficit.
"I've said this many times. Justin is the most underrated player on our team," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "He doesn't get enough credit for what he does. There are two guys on this team that I want to give the puck to, and that's him and (Anze Kopitar). When they have the puck, plays happen."
The loss was a crushing defeat for the Rangers, who had a chance to steal the opening game, but never scored after the first period.
"That's a good hockey team on the other side," Rangers right winger Martin St. Louis said. "They're going to force you to make mistakes. That's hockey. There are two teams that are going for the same thing. We'll correct the mistakes and get right back at it."
"Right now, it's just disappointment," New York center Brad Richards said. "It's still fresh, but it's anyone's game in overtime. We'll forget tonight, think about what we did right and wrong and we'll work on those in the next game. We turned pucks over, didn't play north/south and game them momentum."
With the game tied at 2, Los Angeles dictated the third period, but couldn't seal the win. The Kings attempted the first 12 shots of the third period but failed to score. They also had a power play during the final 1:36 of regulation after New York center Brian Boyle was sent to the box for slashing, but again came up empty.
The Kings outshot the Rangers 20-3 in the third.
Left winger Benoit Pouliot gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead on an unassisted goal with 6:39 remaining in the first period.
New York got a gift less than two minutes later when left winger Carl Hagelin fired a shot that bounced off Quick and then hit the stick of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov for a short-handed goal and a 2-0 Rangers' advantage with 4:57 left in the first.
The Kings rallied, however. Forward Jeff Carter fed Clifford, who banged the puck pass Lundqvist to cut the margin to 2-1 with 2:27 remaining in the first. It was Clifford's first goal of the postseason.
Doughty tied the score at 2, ripping a wrist shot past Lundqvist at 6:36 of the second period for his fifth goal of the playoffs. Doughty also set a club record for points in the postseason, breaking his own mark of 16 set 2012.
Doughty and Williams both said they weren't pleased with how the Kings played, particularly the start.