NEW YORK -- For the second straight night, the Los Angeles Kings did what they need to do to stay in the race for a Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the Western Conference. They still need some help.
The Kings defeated the New York Rangers 4-2 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday to improve to 2-0-0 on what is a crucial five-game road trip that continues Thursday against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Center Anze Kopitar had two assists, giving him five points in the first two games on this trip, 14 in the past 11, and the Kings got goals from Robyn Regehr, Marian Gaborik, Jeff Carter and Jake Muzzin. Los Angeles (36-23-14) has seven goals in its past two games after scoring five in its previous four.
"We needed wins, so we played two games and we've got two wins right now, but we've gotta keep grinding," Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. "We're still chasing a playoff spot here and we gotta win as many games as we can."
Los Angeles remains on the outside of the playoff picture because of the regulation/overtime wins (ROW) tiebreaker. The Kings and Calgary Flames each have 86 points through 73 games in their battle for third place in the Pacific Division, but the Flames have the advantage with two more ROW (36-34).
Calgary plays Wednesday against the Dallas Stars.
The Kings are two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. The Jets lost 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks, who lead Los Angeles and Calgary by four points for second in the Pacific Division.
"I've said it plenty of times, we definitely don't want to be in this kind of position, but it does seem like we do play good hockey when our backs are against the wall," Kopitar said. "We dug ourselves a hole, so we've gotta climb out of it."
They've worked toward that by playing vintage Kings hockey the past two nights.
Los Angeles controlled possession and won 3-1 against the New Jersey Devils on Monday. They again dominated possession Tuesday, or at least they did after Mats Zuccarello's goal 51 seconds into the game and until New York started taking chances down three goals in the third period.
The Rangers had the final 14 shots on goal to finish with a 36-35 edge in that department, but the Kings had a 35-22 advantage when Muzzin gave them a 4-1 lead at 5:28 of the third period.
Los Angeles never really let New York play with the speed that has made it so dangerous this season.
"At points during the game, we controlled the game, just the zone time," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "We're good at that. That's what our team does. We spend time with the puck and we spend time in the offensive zone. You don't always get rewarded for that, but tonight we did."
The Rangers (46-19-7) lost in regulation for the second time in the past 11 games and the fourth time in 24 games without goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is planning to return to the lineup either at the Boston Bruins on Saturday or at home against the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
New York fell behind the Montreal Canadiens in the race for the Presidents' Trophy and the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Montreal became the first team in the NHL to 100 points when it earned one point in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators.
The Rangers have 99 points and two games in hand on the Canadiens. The Tampa Bay Lightning in the East and the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks in the West also have 99 points, but each has played more games than the Rangers.
"It's very hard to explain," New York coach Alain Vigneault said of the Rangers' performance Tuesday. "We were second on the puck and we were second on 1-on-1s. Our execution wasn't what it needed to be against such a strong opponent, and we paid the price for it.
"I know that coming into this game everybody knew what we were up against and that it was going to take a real strong effort and our 'A' game. We didn't have that tonight. I can't explain why."
Carter and Muzzin lifted the Kings to a 4-1 lead in the third period before Rangers forward Kevin Hayes made it a two-goal game. Carter scored his 26th at 1:05, and Muzzin his eighth at 5:28. Hayes scored at 16:16.
Kopitar had the assist on Muzzin's goal; it was his second assist of the night.
"He's our best player," Sutter said. "After the All-Star Game, I think our team has played really well since then, and so has [Kopitar]. How many good teams don't have a top centerman that's not a dominant player?"
Gaborik's goal at 4:35 of the second and Carter's goal, which wound up being the game winner, each was a result of a defensive-zone turnover by the Rangers created by the Kings' aggressive forecheck.
On Carter's goal, New York defenseman Dan Boyle had his pass knocked down by Kings forward Tyler Toffoli. The puck came to forward Dwight King on the left side, and he quickly found Carter in the slot for a tap-in goal.
Gaborik gave the Kings a 2-1 lead after Rangers goalie Cam Talbot's pass behind the goal line was intercepted by forward Justin Williams. He moved it up to Kopitar, who quickly moved the puck across to Gaborik for a one-timer from below the right circle that Talbot had no chance on.
"That's how we have to play in order to win games," Kopitar said. "We just have to worry about what we can control, and it is playing like this on a nightly basis."
At times it looked like the Kings were playing keep-away from the Rangers. They were plus-21 in total shot attempts through 40 minutes (56-35) and had a 31-21 advantage in shots on goal despite losing 25 of 40 faceoffs through two periods, including 15 of 21 in the second period.
The Kings had a 32-18 advantage in total shot attempts in the first period, including a 17-12 edge in shots on goal. The game was tied 1-1 after 20 minutes on goals by Zuccarello and Regehr.
"To start out this road trip with four points is huge for us," Gaborik said.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl