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SportsColumnistsArthur Staple

Rangers played Kings even up through three periods ... but oh, that overtime

Rick Nash of the Rangers controls the puck

Rick Nash of the Rangers controls the puck behind the net against the Los Angeles Kings during Game 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at the Staples Center on June 4, 2014 in Los Angeles. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Bruce Bennett

LOS ANGELES - The talk before the Stanley Cup Final began was about favorites and underdogs and all the rest of that blather.

The talk after Game 1, after a few breakdowns led to a rather easy overtime winner for Justin Williams and the Kings, seemed to be about the Rangers being overwhelmed by the bigger, badder, better team from out here.

That's not quite what happened.

The 3-2 loss in the opener of this series is clearly not what the Rangers wanted. But for the first half of the game, the Rangers did exactly what they wanted and that, despite the loss, is something to build on.

"We know what we have to do and we did a lot of the things we'd discussed," Chris Kreider said. "We just have to do those things for a longer period of time."

The Rangers -- Kreider, Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin especially -- played with the sort of speed that created big neutral-zone gaps and numerous chances in the last three games of the Penguins series and all throughout the Eastern Conference finals win over the Canadiens.

"They had a lot of energy, they were fresh," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "I know we were not on full tanks."

The Kings didn't get here by rolling over, of course, so the 2-0 deficit after Hagelin's short-handed goal was merely a speed bump, not a wall. And the third period was not exactly what the Rangers wanted.

But the 20-3 shot edge for the Kings seemed to surprise a few Rangers. They didn't feel the game got that lopsided and it didn't look that way. Frankly, the best chances for either team were in the final minute of regulation with the Kings on a power play.

Hagelin was barely denied by Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist made a diving stop to keep Jeff Carter's wraparound try, off Hagelin's skate, out of the net.

"They throw a lot from the corners and down the wings," said Lundqvist, who had 40 saves, a big number. "I felt pretty good. We kept them to the outside for the most part."

The shots on goal were 43-27 in favor of the Kings, but the shot attempts were only 63-62 for Los Angeles. The Rangers missed the net 21 times and made an extra pass a few times too often. In that regard, they could take a lesson from the Kings and their willingness to throw pucks from everywhere and charge the net.

"I feel like they were coming out of their end a little too easy on us in the third," Marc Staal said. 'There are some things we can do differently, obviously. But there are things we can work with from this game."

So the themes that may be beaten to death with two days until Game 2 could be about the "favored" Kings looking to seize control of the Final, how they imposed their will on the Rangers.

If you were watching that game and you noticed any of the Kings' big six forwards for more than a brief glimpse or two, you were watching very, very closely.

Anze Kopitar didn't do much of anything, seeing as much of Ryan McDonagh as he did; Dustin Brown and former Ranger Marian Gaborik were awfully quiet. Carter had a few strong moments, but it was the Kings' grinders who helped get them back into it. "Not our best game by a long way," Williams said.

That may be the rallying cry for the Kings, who can certainly be better. The Rangers didn't win, so there's work to do. Just not as much as 43 shots allowed might indicate.

New York Sports