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Lundqvist is biggest test of playoffs for Kings

Friday, 06.06.2014 / 6:06 PM / Kings vs Rangers - 2014 Stanley Cup Final

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

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Lundqvist is biggest test of playoffs for Kings
Up against the New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, the Stanley Cup Final marks the first time in the 2014 playoffs the Los Angeles Kings have faced a truly elite goalie.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings forwards are not spending much time dissecting the unorthodox technique of New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, whose deep-in-the-crease style is the antithesis of their Jonathan Quick.

What was confirmed after Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is that Lundqvist is as advertised. This is the first time the Kings have faced a truly elite goalie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after the inconsistency of Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks, the up-and-down tandem of Jonas Hiller and John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks, and the sometimes-struggling Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks.

"All I know is, he's a good goalie," Kings forward Justin Williams said of Lundqvist. "He's tough to beat, and he looks big in there. He can be intimidating because there's not much room to shoot at. He's going to make most of the saves that he sees. Shots, screens, tips, rebounds is kind of the model around here for it."

Judging from Game 1, which the Kings won 3-2 in overtime, that model might also include going blocker side on Lundqvist. Los Angeles scored all three of its goals on that side, notably Williams' perfectly placed wrist shot inside the left post in overtime, on the Kings' 43rd shot. The other goals -- Kyle Clifford's chip shot and Drew Doughty's drive to the left side -- were more by happenstance on that side.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is Saturday at Staples Center (7 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

Marian Gaborik would seem to know the book on Lundqvist. Not only did he practice against him for years with the Rangers, but the veteran forward's career-best five-goal game came against Lundqvist in 2007, as a member of the Minnesota Wild. Surprisingly, Gaborik said he doesn't give teammates tips on how to beat Lundqvist. In that regard, the Kings study Lundqvist as they would any other opposing goalie.

"It's best to see him on video," Gaborik said. "There's not a whole lot of things you can say."

Conversely, Williams said the Kings don't ask Gaborik to break down Lundqvist's game.

"It's like asking Mozart to teach you how to play the piano," Williams said. "It just doesn't work, right?"

Lundqvist and the Rangers kept the Kings' top line of Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown off the score sheet in Game 1, and at one point coach Darryl Sutter changed the centers on the lines to manage Kopitar's game.

If Los Angeles is going to have success against Lundqvist, much of it has to start from the top.

"I can only speak for myself, but I think our line in Game 1 was not very good, and we need to kind of take control of the game more so," Brown said. "It's not about checking or sawing off another line. It's about taking control of the game for us. That's not only [Kopitar's] job, but my job and Gaborik's job. That's why we're playing with him."

Gaborik, Kopitar and Brown combined for two shots, each by Gaborik, in the first two periods of Game 1 but finished with a combined eight shots during the Kings' 22-5 shot advantage in the third period and overtime. Lundqvist held his ground, particularly on a sweeping drive to the net by Tyler Toffoli in the third.

It was Lundqvist's first appearance in a Cup Final, and Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he passed the test. Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin explained how Lundqvist is their Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs' most valuable player during the Kings' run to the Stanley Cup in 2012.

"Some games, with him back there, all it takes is for us to score one goal," Hagelin said of Lundqvist. "And we know we have enough in here to score on [one] goal. He's the MVP of this team."

The Kings seem equipped to break down Lundqvist because they are the highest-scoring team in the playoffs, a contrast to their grind-it-out style in 2012. That year, the New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur and his old-school, stack-the-pads style stood between Los Angeles and the Cup, which the Kings won in six games. This time it's Lundqvist.

Kopitar said Lundqvist's style is no state secret.

"Sometimes guys think they have him figured out and he still comes up with saves," Kopitar said. "I don't think it's a whole lot of difference between him - because he is playing so deep -- than the guys playing at the top of their crease. As a shooter, when you come down, you see what's open and you try and hit it. It doesn't matter where you play. I don't think it makes too much of a difference in a sense of, again, when a shooter comes down and sees an opening, he's probably going to go for it."

Quote of the Day

It seems like I'm kind of making it a little difficult on myself here the last two games.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after tying the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with an assist on Duncan Keith's goal with 26.6 seconds left against the Anaheim Ducks Friday
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