SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Alain Vigneault reviewed only portions of the video from the New York Rangers’ Stanley Cup finals opener before he sat down at their oceanside hotel to explain how it got away.
The coach had already formed a few impressions, and they made him even more wary of the Los Angeles Kings.
“They’re one of the best teams I’ve seen in a long time,” Vigneault said Thursday. “Areas to exploit, they don’t jump out at you. We’re going to have to be better than we were.”
The Rangers realize they missed a golden chance to grab an early game from the weary Kings, who were 72 hours removed from a grueling, seven-game Western Conference finals victory over defending champion Chicago.
New York jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period at Staples Center, but was soon overwhelmed. The Kings tied it in the second, utterly dominated the third and won early in overtime on Justin Williams’ latest clutch goal.
The comeback was classic Kings — and now the Rangers realize exactly what they’re facing.
“We’re a team that’s just never going to go away,” Kings forward Jeff Carter said. “We’re going to play hard no matter what the score is.”
Game 2 is Saturday. The Kings enjoyed a rare day off at home, while the Rangers tried to relax near the beach on a splendid sunny day.
Despite Vigneault’s lofty praise, the Rangers don’t seem intimidated by the 2012 Stanley Cup champions. Although New York was outshot 20-3 in the third period, Carl Hagelin was denied by Jonathan Quick on a breakaway in the last minute of regulation, barely missing a chance to steal it.
“To be honest, I don’t think they had that many grade-A scoring chances in the third,” Hagelin said. “They had a lot of puck-possession time. They had some shots. It wasn’t really a lot of good chances. I mean, we can’t look too much into shots.”