LOS ANGELES – After jumping at the get-go and building a two-goal lead in the opening five minutes of play Thursday night, the Kings couldn’t hold on, falling 4-3 to the New York Rangers at STAPLES Center.
“You can’t give up four goals and expect to win; ever,” Darryl Sutter expressed following the game.
Especially to the Rangers, who came into the night the hottest team in the NHL, having won 11 of their previous 12 games. Thursday marked the first time the two clubs faced each other since last season’s Stanley Cup Final series.
The Kings were quick to get on the board, scoring twice in the opening five minutes of the contest. For the Kings, their early scoring was a welcoming sight, but they had difficulties maintaining their two-goal first period lead.
Tanner Pearson got the offense rolling when he slammed home a Jeff Carter pass just over four minutes into the game. Carter, who streaked down the right side boards past two New York defensemen, found Pearson open at the top of the Rangers’ crease with a perfect pass.
Pearson’s goal, his 12th of the season, puts him in a tie with Tyler Toffoli and Marian Gaborik for the team-lead in that department.
Just over a minute later, Justin Williams put the Kings up 2-0 when he beat Cam Talbot with a slap shot with from the top of the right circle.
As the Kings moved the puck swiftly through the neutral zone, Dustin Brown found Williams with a pass as he entered New York’s zone. Williams, after a couple of strides, teed up, fired away, and beat Talbot high to the right corner.
Dan Boyle got the Rangers on the board midway through the first period; it would be the first of four consecutive goals for New York. They would rattle off three more goals in the second period – where the Kings played their worst hockey of the evening.
“I don’t think the start of the second period was nearly good enough,” said Anze Kopitar. “They got that two goal lead, and we were chasing the game after that.”
New York took a 3-2 lead with a pair of goals 19 seconds apart, and a few minutes later, Martin St. Louis gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead, banging home a rebound on a power play.
In the third period, the Kings regained some of the push they showed in the first period, firing away for 13 shots during the final 20 minutes. Justin Williams got the Kings back to within a goal with four minutes to play in regulation, swatting home an airborne puck over Cam Talbot’s left shoulder.
Williams, who had two goals on the evening, and who is never shy in expressing his emotion following a loss, hinted that the club, which has lost four of it’s past five games, and five of it’s last seven, is in a mid-season rut.
“We seem to be in a funk,” Williams said. “I think especially with killing penalties. It’s not from a lack of trying. Guys are working as hard as they can. Throughout the season, sometimes there are ups and downs. This is a down for us now.”
The Kings, though, have time to recover on home ice, where they’ve found most of their success this season. With their next five games in Los Angeles, they can take advantage of some location stability to work out their kinks.
Justin Williams (2G) and Dustin Brown (2A) lead all Kings players in points scored (2), Justin Williams and Jeff Carter in shots taken (4), Tanner Pearson in hits delivered (4), Alec Martinez in shots blocked (3), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (31:12). Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in the loss.
With the loss, the Kings’ record dips to 19-13-9; their mark at STAPLES Center drops to 14-5-3. The Kings will continue their seven-game home stand Saturday night, where they’ve gone 0-1-1 so far. The Winnipeg Jets will be in town, the puck is set to drop at 7:00PM PT Saturday evening.