Turning Points

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Kings, Rangers Benefit From Adversity
By Greg Hudson
 
When the final whistle blew on game three of the Western Conference quarterfinal, the Los Angeles Kings found themselves at the edge of a cliff. Trailing the San Jose Sharks 3-0 in the best-of-seven series, the Kings were a loss away from an early exit to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and faced with an obstacle only four teams had ever done before: overturn a 3-0 defecit to win a playoff series.
 
But while almost everyone thought the Kings were down and out, the Kings fought back against San Jose, forced a seventh game, and won comfortably on the road 5-1. They carried their momentum into the conference semis against the Anaheim Ducks and raced out to a 2-0 series lead, but just as suddenly as they found their form, they lost it, and dropped three straight to trail 3-2 and find themselves once again in a win-or-go-home scenario. But they rallied in front of their home crowd at the Staples Center to win game six, and coasted to a 6-2 win in game seven across town.
 
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers also overcame a seven-game first round challenge from Philadelphia to face the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a solid performance in a game one win, they dropped three straight in woeful fashion, proving inept at almost every element at the game, with the exception of stalwart goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
 
But after the game four loss at Madison Square Garden which put them behind 3-1 in the series, while the Rangers got ready to travel to Pittsburgh for a do-or-die game five, Rangers star Martin St. Louis’s mother passed away suddenly. and few expected St. Louis to dress for game five.
 
Not only did he dress, he came out and led the Rangers to a resounding 5-1 win en route to a remarkable comeback that culminated in a 2-1 win in Pittsburgh in game seven to advance to the Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens.
 
After so much adversity in the first two rounds, the Rangers and Kings have responded, even thrived on adversity. When everyone else counted them out, they counted on each other and found a belief in themselves and their team. Both teams now hold an advantage in their Conference Final series, despite not having home ice advantage. Each team is posed to become the first team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals after playing 14 games in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
 
And each team believes it will get there, but only one team can lift the Stanley Cup, and neither team has sealed its place in the finals just yet. Whether or not they have what it takes to reach the finish line remains to be seen, but if recent form is any suggestion, the Rangers and Kings could make for one sensational Stanley Cup Final.
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