NEW YORK — When the Los Angeles Kings have gone down by a goal, by two goals — which has happened often, too often, this postseason — Justin Williams takes a peek around the dressing room. He appraises his teammates, studies them.
And he believes.
“It comes from experience,” said Williams on Sunday, about his team’s resiliency in the biggest of games. “It comes from looking around the dressing room.
“I look at faces when I look around dressing rooms when we’re down a goal and you can read a lot [about] what someone’s thinking by just looking at their face. Between the second and third [periods in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night], I looked around and I didn’t see anyone scared. I saw a prepared team that knew what they had to do.”
The Kings went out and erased their third two-goal deficit of the evening, eventually claiming a 5-4 double-overtime victory on Dustin Brown’s redirection. Los Angeles has come back from 2-0 deficits in each of its last three games — an NHL postseason first — starting with Game 7 against the Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals.
“It’s definitely strange,” said Dwight King, who scored the third goal for Los Angeles on Saturday. “Obviously we’d like to have a little better starts. The last three have been two-goal deficits. I think once we get the first goal it kind of jump-starts our team. Hope we can get the first one [in Game 3 on Monday].”
Going back further, the Kings have fallen behind, 2-0, five times in their last nine games. They are 4-1 in those games.
They can do it. But they’d rather not.
“We’re not proud of the way we’ve started games, and we find ourselves in the same situation, regurgitating the same mumbo jumbo every time,” Williams said. “We’re in a results-oriented league, and the results are we’re up, 2-0. I don’t care how we got here.”
There are, of course, two ways of looking at the comebacks. There’s the thought that it can’t last, that the Kings can’t continue to live so dangerously and remain successful. There’s also the thought that their comebacks have crushed the Rangers’ confidence.
Asked whether the latter might be true, Marian Gaborik said, “I don’t think so.”
Added Williams, “Teams don’t make it this far out of luck. Teams are here for a reason. They’ve been able to dominate at times, they’ve been resilient, they’ve been able to do things that other teams haven’t.
“Do we feel we’ve broken them? No. Absolutely not. We should know that more than anybody, that it’s tough to put a team down. Especially when you’re playing for the Stanley Cup, it’s going to be hard to put a team down. But we need to try to step a little bit more on the throat.”
Williams should know. He’s won the Cup twice before, with the Kings in 2012 and with the Hurricanes in 2006. It was with that Carolina team, when he was just 24, where he saw the same comeback ability that he’s seen on his current club.
It might not be exactly the same — the Kings’ comebacks are on a historical level — but the two are comparable in Williams’s mind. That bodes well, since that Carolina team came away with the prize that the Kings are hoping to win.
Williams didn’t mention whether he looked around the locker room in those days, taking in the faces when the team was down, judging their ability to rebound, to prevail, to score when absolutely necessary. Perhaps he would have seen then what he sees now.
“I feel like we had a lot of comebacks during that roll, too,” Williams said. “It kind of has a similar type of feel, whereas you never feel you’re out of it. Earlier on, especially this year, when we’ve had trouble scoring goals, sometimes you might have felt like that, but now we feel that anything’s possible out there.
“You get down two goals, it doesn’t matter. You get down three, I don’t care. We’re going to keep pushing, and the term ‘60 minutes plus’ certainly applies to anyone who wants to beat us.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.