The Los Angeles Kings don't take the easy road. They haven't all postseason. So when the New York Rangers jumped all over them in the first period, got out to a 2-0 lead and looked for a good stretch the better team, it was just another night for the Kings. This script had played out time and time again this postseason. It even played out just a few days ago. It wasn't a matter of if they would score, it was when.
They of course scored three unanswered goals, earning a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Typical.
The first time "when" came around turned out to be 2:33 after Carl Hagelin scored a potentially demoralizing shorthanded goal on a breakaway midway through the first period. Kyle Clifford got in on the forecheck, got help from Jeff Carter, who beat out Anton Stralman for a puck. Carter dished to Clifford, who got the puck up and over Henrik Lundqvist. Once that game got to 2-1, it was again not only a matter of if they would score again, but when.
"When" came again 6:36 into the second period when Drew Doughty pulled one of the more creative moves of the postseason when he accepted Justin Williams' pass, put it between his own legs and fit a shot through Lundqvist to tie the game in a rather fashionable way.
Both goals were analogous to the dual nature of the Kings' style of play. It is a bruising, physical, in-your-face style that can overwhelm their opponents, but it is paired with skill, speed and precision.
The first goal was blue collar, the second was artisanal.
When the third period rolled around, the Kings were at their peak. The melding of their two styles put and kept the Rangers on their heels. They outshot New York 20-3. The first half of the third period saw the Rangers go without a single shot on net, while the Kings racked up 13.
Had Lundqvist not been so sound, it could have been a blowout from there, but neither team found the back of the net before time expired.
And though the Kings were dominant in the third, they were not devoid of mistakes. Each of the three shots the Rangers got on net in the third very well could have been goals. Similar breakdowns in the first period led to the two scores the Rangers started the game with.
Though the Rangers have those two distinct playing styles as noted earlier, one of the offshoots of their game as a whole is just how opportunistic they are with their chances.
In overtime, they capitalized on a broken play that started with a puck hopping off Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi's stick. He then tripped over his own feet and tried to make a desperate pass. It was picked off by Mike Richards, who then passed it to (who else?) Justin Williams, who buried the game-winning goal all alone in front.
Game 1 is a great example of the way the Kings just are. They are mostly great, sometimes their own worst enemy, but seemingly always able to snap out of it and remember just how dominant they can be.
Having beaten teams like the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks -- each among the best in the league this year -- the Kings have seemingly done it all and seen it all. When they fall behind, they dig in.
With all of the hockey the Kings have played, now 22 of a possible 22 games this postseason, perhaps they should focus on finding their game a little earlier.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was just fine in Game 1 despite facing limited shots, is beginning to hope for the same.
"We've [come back] a few times obviously, but I think it's not something we want to make a habit of," Quick said after Game 1.
Williams, the overtime hero echoed his goaltender's sentiment, also stating what is undoubtedly the company line to not make a habit out of playing from behind.
"They're a world class team over there," Williams said. "A lot of things go awry during a game. I don't think we were ready for the speed of their wingers."
But even when the Kings aren't ready, they seem to recover and adjust. Though Williams is right, the Rangers are no pushover and could just as easily capitalized on the Kings mistakes.
Like the Kings, the Rangers can be extremely opportunistic and their team speed is a great equalizer. They very nearly ended that game on a second Hagelin shorthanded breakaway with 45 seconds remaining in regulation.
We all would be signing a different tune if that shot went in, but for whatever reason, those shots rarely go in against the Kings.
Starting in a hole hasn't really hurt the Kings much at all this postseason. Heck, as a hockey fan watching, you almost want to see the Kings fall behind in a game because they're so much more fun when they're playing with desperation.
They may be playing with fire, but it seems the Kings have always had the best flame-retardant suit money can buy. And there's something admirable about their resilience this postseason. Even if they don't want to make a habit of it, they're making great theater of it.
This question has been asked so many times the last few months: "Can anyone put away the Kings when they have the chance?" For yet another night, on another big stage -- the biggest yet -- the answer was a resounding "No."