LOS ANGELES -- Game 1 opened some of the Rangers' eyes.
So as they head into Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final Saturday night, they feel better prepared.
"There's another gear in the Stanley Cup Final," forward Derick Brassard said after practice Friday. "It's really hard to win the Cup and I think we realize how hard it was in Game 1. It was pretty intense, really fast game, high-paced.
"And the bottom line is we lost the game. We need to play better as a team."
The Rangers' focus, whether because of the newness of the experience for all but two of their players – Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis, neither of whom actually played very well, either – was sidetracked after two pretty solid periods. They were dominated by the Los Angeles Kings in the third period, though not as much as the 20-3 shot count would indicate, and lost a game they led 2-0 early, and still could have won late, on a bad hop in overtime.
"We've been playing hockey for such a long time now and everyone's so on top of their game that everything's magnified," forward Chris Kreider said. "If you make a mistake they're going to capitalize and vice versa. So in that regard I guess there's a different gear, yes."
GAME 2: Defensive changes expected
The Kings, most of whom played when the franchise won its first Stanley Cup in 2012, were obviously ready for whatever new level the Final would bring.
"Well, probably till you've lived it, you know, coaches and guys that have been there can say what they want," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Like I mentioned prior to the series, sometimes experience is hard to get. When I mentioned (Wednesday) … that we need everybody's A game, it's not just because it's a great opponent, but it's the time of the year.
"You know, if you're in the Final, and your expectations are to win, you have to bring your best game to the table. Our guys are aware of that. Our guys are talking (among) themselves about it. We're all looking for a better response."
Though the play might get ramped up in the last round of the marathon, the Rangers were not surprised about the way the Kings played.
"They played exactly the way we expected them to play," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "We had meetings going into this game. We talked about what to expect.
"After the first period, I think AV asked us if we were surprised, didn't expect that. We all looked around the room and realized this is what we've been preparing for, this is the way it's going to look. They're pretty consistent the way they play. That's why they're here."
But it can go quickly, either in your favor, or against you, if you're not prepared for more, faster, harder and better in the next game.
"It's pretty obvious," Richards said. "If we win that game in overtime, we're still having the same meeting probably today, the way the game went. Sometimes you don't win a game, you have to realize where you are.
"We have to expect they're going to be a lot better. We have to be better or you're going to be down 2-0. You know, that's normal. We recognized that right when the game was over You know, it's this time of year. You get one crack at it. You got to raise it. There's no other option."
Rick Carpiniello writes for the (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News.
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