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Rangers rue missed opportunities in Game 1 loss

Thursday, 06.05.2014 / 1:54 AM
Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer

LOS ANGELES -- New York Rangers right wing Martin St. Louis refused to admit what appeared obvious to others Wednesday in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

"I don't feel we gave it away," St. Louis said.

If that's the case, the narrative should be that the Los Angeles Kings came back and took away what, for a short while anyway, was looking like a sure thing for New York.

The Rangers had built a two-goal lead with 4:57 remaining in the first period, but the Kings rallied to tie it before seven minutes elapsed in the second period. Justin Williams scored the winner 4:35 into overtime to lift Los Angeles to 3-2 victory at Staples Center and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

"I wouldn't say, 'Gave one away,'" said Rangers forward Carl Hagelin, obviously sticking with the narrative. "I think when you're up 2-0 … their first goal gave them momentum. I think it would have been a different game if they didn't get that goal. But again, we can't get too down on ourselves. We showed all year that we're a close-knit group. We always come back strong."

Maybe the Rangers will come back strong, but they'll have two days to digest what could have been, and maybe should have been, Wednesday.

Game 2 isn't until Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

"Yeah, we had a shot to win the game; it's frustrating that we didn't come out and do it, but we're still a confident group," New York defenseman Marc Staal said. "It's not the end of the world. It's one game. We know we could have played better and that's encouraging. We know we could play a better full game than we did [Wednesday] and we were still one shot away from winning the game."

They were close to scoring on that one shot too.

Hagelin had a shorthanded breakaway with less than a minute remaining in regulation, but Kings goalie Jonathan Quick threw up his catching glove and knocked his shot out of the air and out of harm's way.

The problem for the Rangers is that was only their third shot of the third period. It came with 41 seconds remaining.

When Staal talks about how the Rangers could have played better, he's talking about the third period, which was a nightmare for New York but not a costly one because of the play of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who faced 20 shots in that 20 minutes and stopped them all.

"We did let them get back in the game and then that third period was kind of like a snowball effect," Staal said. "They were in our end a ton and we just weren't able to get our forecheck going like we're used to."

It wasn't just the forecheck; the Rangers couldn't get anything going in the third until Hagelin used his game-breaking speed to spring himself for a breakaway.

The Rangers, as a team, didn't skate. They also turned over the puck.

"When you play against such a good opponent that has all that strength, you need to play a full game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "For whatever reason we just weren't good enough in the third."

St. Louis offered reasons why.

"We didn't quite get the puck 200 feet; we did a lot of east/west stuff," he said. "They didn't have to come back all the way in and play defense. They went back the other way and they got their forecheck going. We end up spending a little too much time in our end zone, and then it's tough to get on offense when you're trying to get off the ice. I don't want to not give credit to them, but some of the stuff we did in the third we have to correct."

They have 48 hours to get it right before Game 2 on Saturday. If they don't, the narrative will change again, drastically.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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