LOS ANGELES - While the Rangers would prefer to not have to spend any time on the penalty kill up two goals in the third period, that was the spot they found themselves in late against the Kings Saturday night.
But the penalty kill, which had allowed goals in eight consecutive games, was perfect in 4:44 of shorthanded time in the third period to preserve the 3-0 win.
"We needed to have some big plays and I think the big difference in the game is the penalty kill," said Dan Girardi. "We got two big kills in the third, and hopefully we can build on that from here and get better on the PK."
Kevin Hayes, who logged 1:35 on the penalty kill in the third period, said the team made adjustments prior to the game to help improve the PK and the early results were positive.
"We kind of switched up the units there on the PK," Hayes told NYRangers.com after the win. "Set some new general ground rules and it worked out so far. You never want to be on the PK, but it's a good momentum switcher if you have a good one and I thought tonight that was the case."
Girardi returned to the Rangers lineup after missing 12 games with an ankle injury. Prior to the game, he said he wanted to keep it simple and not try to do too much to return, and for the most part, felt he was successful.
"I thought I just tried to go out there and work hard, block some shots and make some hits," said Girardi, who logged 20:03 of ice time, including 2:03 with on the penalty kill. "There were a couple marathon shifts so that didn't help the breathing out there too much."
Coach Alain Vigneault praised the work of his six defensemen in shutting down a big, physical Kings squad, and said he was hopeful Girardi would continue to improve as New York heads towards the playoffs.
"I liked the way our group played tonight," he said. "Dan, it's his first game in a long time. He worked hard. There's obviously room for improvement there, but for the most part it was a step in the right direction for him and hopefully with the games that are remaining, he'll find his rhythm and his timing."
Video: NYR@LAK: Stepan bangs home rebound off boards
Derek Stepan's second period goal was his 14th of the season and 50th overall point on the season, marking the fifth time he's reached that plateau. According to New York Rangers' PR, the only players since the start of the 1991-92 season to record more 50-point seasons with the Rangers are Brian Leetch (eight), Mark Messier (seven) and Adam Graves (six).