For the first time since Game 6 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, the New York Rangers (23-11-4) and the Los Angeles Kings (19-13-9) took to the ice for an East Coast-West Coast, Broadway-Hollywood showdown.
This time, New York came out on top. The Rangers netted four consecutive goals and came back from an early deficit to defeat the Kings, 4-3, on Thursday night at Staples Center.
After two quick goals by the Kings in the opening minutes of the first period, the Rangers rallied and put in four unanswered goals of their own to build a 4-2 lead going into the third. Dan Boyle started off the scoring for New York with a power play goal midway through the first. The Rangers have now scored with the man advantage in six of their last seven games–something that has greatly contributed to their recent success. Boyle’s shot was a long drive from just inside the blue line, and the puck a fortunate bounce to get past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick and cut the lead in half.
The second period began with a 2-1 Kings lead, but the Rangers retained their momentum from the end of the first and scored two goals in 19 seconds in the early part of the period. Kevin Klein netted his eighth of the season at 2:31, putting the puck through a mass of black and white jerseys from the blue line, and Lee Stempniak put in the go-ahead goal seconds later from the slot. The Rangers’ speed and playmaking in front of the net were key factors in this sustained offensive attack.
When 2014 Stanley Cup Final hero Alec Martinez was whistled for hooking a few minutes later, the Rangers returned to the power play, and Martin St. Louis found the back of the net on a rebound for New York’s second PPG of the game at 8:17. The remainder of the period continued with some of the best hockey the Rangers have played all season, winning streaks notwithstanding. New York was solid on the penalty kill and made the most of their speed to outrace the Kings as time wound down.
The Kings, being the LA Kings, looked to start a comeback late in the third period after Justin Williams‘s second goal of the game, which cut the Rangers’ lead to 4-3 with four minutes to play. A tripping call on Rick Nash with under a minute remaining, coupled with Quick being pulled for the extra skater, forced the Rangers to defend their one-goal lead with a 6-on-4 disadvantage. But the Rangers remained solid and fought off the Kings’ offense effectively. Cam Talbot, who had not played since December 21, had 28 saves for the Rangers in his fourth win of the season. This was Talbot’s first win that did not also come with a shutout.
The Rangers have now won 4 games in a row and 12 of their last 13. They look to be a much more confident team in all three zones lately, and this confidence is extending to individual players as well. Boyle looks to be finding his game again after a slow start and an early injury; he has two goals and three assists in his last five games. Chris Kreider has also been contributing all-around solid games over the past few weeks, using his size and speed to create opportunities and playing better than his numbers may indicate. J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast have proven that they belong on the Rangers’ roster as full-time players as well and have been putting in strong showings with their respective lines. And whereas the beginning of this season saw most of the team’s points coming from a select few players, the scoring and points production is now spreading out more.
The Rangers will wrap up their tour of California with a game against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. If they keep playing with the skill and confidence they’ve been showing lately, there is no doubt that the Rangers can sweep this road trip, keep their winning streak alive, and silence those who think their success is coming solely from playing Eastern Conference teams.