Rangers What If: Dwight King called for interference in Game 2
Let’s set the stage: It’s the third period of Game 2 of this year’s Stanley Cup final. The Rangers are sitting on a 4-2 lead with just over 18 minutes to play. The Kings’ Matt Greene gets a pass at the point from eventual Conn Smythe-winner Justin Williams, and throws a snap shot on net. Dwight King, fighting in front of the net, deflects the puck past Henrik Lundqvist, and it’s suddenly a one-goal game.
There’s just one little problem, though — King was falling over Lundqvist, barely allowing him to play the puck and make a save. A case of goaltender interference, through King’s own tenacity.
“The Ranger bench is furious,” NBC color commentator Mike Milbury said during replays of the goal. “They think Dwight King should get a penalty for goalie interference right there. The Ranger bench exploded after the puck went in.”
Looking at the clip, Ryan McDonagh didn’t give King that much wiggle room in front of his netminder. But he doesn’t outwardly push King into Lundqvist, and the argument could be made that King had sufficient means of staying clear of Lundqvist.
Nearly six minutes later, Marion Gaborik scored his 13th of the playoffs, tying the game at 4. The game stayed tied for one whole overtime and half of another, before Dustin Brown scored and gave Los Angeles a 2-0 series advantage.
How different would the game have been if King was called for goaltender interference?
Obviously, the Rangers would have been awarded a power play if the call was made. Whether or not they would have capitalized on it, however, is an entirely different possibility. At 0 for 3 on the man-advantage in the first game and 1 for 3 at the point of the King goal, scoring another powerplay goal was not a guarantee by any means, and would have come at a premium. While it’s worth noting that the Rangers’ third goal of the game was on the man-advantage — courtesy of Martin St-Louis — that wouldn’t guarantee another one.
Would the Rangers have been able to maintain that two-goal lead? As the cliché goes, the two-goal lead is the hardest to defend in hockey. Especially against the Kings, who answered the bell and established their knowledge of comebacks on countless occasions throughout the playoffs.
Assuming the Gaborik goal was still scored and the Rangers held on for a 4-3 win, the series would have been tied at 1. A 1-1 series tie would have looked significantly different going into Game 3 at Madison Square Garden than a 2-0 LA advantage.
While the goal made a big impact in Game 2, it didn’t necessarily make-or-break the series. There was still plenty of hockey to be played, and plenty of time to make up for the goal. Ultimately, the Kings still prevailed for their second Cup in three years.
Hockey, like all sports, is full of small idiosyncrasies and human errors that add interesting twists and subplots to the game. While its impossible to predict exactly what would happen if Dwight King were called for interference, it’s still fun to wonder what might have been.