Recap: Kings Stifle Rangers 4-2, But Remain Short Of Playoff Spot
In their first game back in Madison Square Garden since last year's Stanley Cup Final, the Kings took care of business, breezing by the Rangers 4-2. They remain out of the playoffs, however, as idle Calgary holds the tiebreaker.
The New York Rangers scored the first goal--in the first minute, no less--and the last goal, but this one never looked in doubt for the Los Angeles Kings. Even Robyn Regehr scored!
After winning the opening faceoff, the Kings dallied a bit in New York's zone before the Rangers regained the puck, forced a Kings defensive-zone turnover, and scored. J.T. Miller took the puck from Drew Doughty on the boards, then fanned on a wraparound attempt. But the puck kept its momentum into the slot, where Mats Zuccarello gathered it and wristed it behind Jonathan Quick. Kings fans hadn't even tuned in long enough to be annoyed at the NBC commentators mangling Anze Kopitar's first name, but it already looked bleak. From there, however, the Kings swiftly wrested control of the period--and the game--from the Rangers, sending waves of attackers into the Rangers' zone and generating many a scoring chance.
But with so many high-speed onslaughts and front-net chances, it was not Trevor Lewis, whose one-on-nobody chance was easily snuffed out by Rangers goalie Cam Talbot, who scored the Kings' first-period goal. Nor was it Dustin Brown, who, for the umpteenth game in a row, was just inches from the puck on what otherwise would have been an open-net scoring chance. Instead, Robyn Regehr floated one in from the blue line that deflected in slow motion off Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle and pinballed around Talbot's equipment before finding its way into the goal to tie the score at one apiece.
I can read lips pic.twitter.com/DUblxE308K— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) March 24, 2015
The first minutes of the second period may have been the Kings' best all night, if not all year, as they laid siege to the Rangers' zone for a full four-minute stretch. The onslaught inevitably forced a Rangers miscue, as Justin Williams intercepted Talbot's pass attempt behind the net and slipped the puck up front to Kopitar, whose pass across the crease was deftly one-timed by Marian Gaborik into the net. (If the Kings are going to make the playoffs by playing Kings Hockey (TM), that Gaborik goal is what Kings Hockey (TM) should look like. Get the puck low, wrestle control, and storm the net. Simple as that.)
The third period, often this season's Waterloo for erstwhile Kings victories, was for once a pleasant one for Kings fans, as solid play by the away team seemingly lulled the home crowd to sleep.
I didn’t realize that part of the MSG improvements was sound-proofing the interior of the arena.— The Royal Half (@theroyalhalf) March 25, 2015
The Kings scored barely a minute into the period, as Dwight King sent a missile through the paint--an area members of That 70's Line had been invading all night--where Jeff Carter guided it home.
While the second-period Gaborik goal may have been the most Kings-esque goal of the night, the Kings' fourth goal, and second of the third period, was the prettiest. A fantastic three-line, cross-ice pass by Trevor Lewis found a streaking Kopitar, who gained the Rangers' zone with speed, wheeled around behind the net, drew in the Rangers' defense, and fed an open Jake Muzzin, who sniped the upper-right corner from behind the left hash. In a flash, the Kings had a 4-1 lead and fans could truly relax.
The dregs of the third period had something for everyone, though, even soccer fans. With about six minutes left, Dominic Moore made a move that would have been slick in soccer cleats, but was positively magical on hockey skates, toeing the puck around his defender to a wide-open Carl Hagelin. Unfortunately for Hagelin, his scoring attempt was snuffed out by Quick, who had a stately performance despite giving up two goals. Speaking of that second Rangers' goal: with 3:44 left to play, it was the first time the Kings, on a back-to-back after beating New Jersey last night, looked tired tonight. Off an offensive-zone face-off for the Rangers, Kevin Hayes leaked into unoccupied space in the middle, received the puck, and shot it. The puck deflected off Mike Richards, giving Quick no chance to make the save. The resulting two-goal deficit prompted Alain Vigneault to pull Talbot, but the Rangers were as ineffective against Quick on the 6-on-5 as the Kings were against the empty net, and the Kings finished off their second straight impressive victory of this super-duper important road trip.
Next up: New York's other, better team, the Islanders, on Thursday.