NEW YORK — Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings are still on the outside of the Western Conference playoff race. The way the veteran goalie sees it, that’s just a temporary situation.
Quick shook off a goal in the first minute and allowed just one more the rest of the way in the Kings’ 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on March 24.
When asked if his club — the defending Stanley Cup champion — is a playoff team, Quick provided an emphatic “Yes.”
“I believe we are,” said Quick, who made 34 saves.
The Kings, fighting for a chance to defend their title, have won the first two games of a five-game trip on successive nights. Marian Gaborik snapped a second-period tie, and Los Angeles cooled off the Rangers in a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Final.
Robyn Regehr scored a rare goal in the first period, and Jeff Carter and Jake Muzzin extended the lead in the third. Anze Kopitar had two assists, giving him a goal and six assists in four games.
“It was a good performance by everyone,” Gaborik said of the Kings, 7-2-2 in their past 11. “After that fourth goal, we slowed down a little bit. Other than that, we were better than (Monday) night. We just have to ramp things up.”
The Kings won 3-1 at New Jersey on March 23 and still have stops at Long Island, Minnesota and Chicago before heading home. They had scored only eight goals in their previous five games.
Los Angeles, which beat the Rangers in five games for the 2014 title, is tied in points with third-place Calgary in the Pacific Division, but the Flames hold the tiebreaker.
“We need points. That’s the bottom line,” Gaborik said.
Mats Zuccarello scored 51 seconds in, and Kevin Hayes made it 4-2 with 3:44 left, but that was the only offense for the Rangers two days after an impressive 7-2 victory over Anaheim. New York entered with an NHL-leading 99 points.
Cam Talbot stopped 31 shots and allowed more than two goals for the first time in 10 appearances. The Rangers had held opponents under three for 10 straight games for the first time since 1971, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“We knew that we were going to come out against a desperate team,” Talbot said. “They’re fighting for their playoff lives. We jumped on them quick, but after that they kind of turned the table on us.”
New York leads the rival Islanders by six points in the Metropolitan Division.
Talbot’s time as the Rangers’ starting goalie is running short, with Henrik Lundqvist practicing on March 24 and eyeing a weekend return to the lineup. New York is 17-4-3 since a neck injury sidelined Lundqvist in February.
Gaborik gave the Kings a 2-1 lead 4:35 into the second with his 23rd goal. It came at the end of a fine passing play in which Justin Williams dug the puck out of the left corner and sent it to Kopitar at the left of the net. Kopitar quickly slid the puck to the right to Gaborik, who had an easy redirection inside the right post.
Gaborik, who played parts of four seasons with the Rangers from 2009-13, is the last one to score at least 40 goals for the Broadway Blueshirts when he netted 41 during the 2011-12 season. New York’s Rick Nash is on the verge of the milestone, but he hasn’t scored in seven games.
The Kings outshot the Rangers 14-9 in the second and held a 31-21 edge through 40 minutes. “They had some momentum and scored that first goal. Afterward we took over,” Gaborik said. “We were all over them.”
Carter’s 26th goal at 1:05 of the third made it 3-1, and Muzzin pushed the lead to three at 5:28.
For the second straight game, the Rangers scored quickly. They connected on their first shot when Zuccarello beat Quick from the slot for his 13th goal.
In Sunday’s win, Chris Kreider put the Rangers in front at 1:24. Just like in that one, this lead was short-lived as Regehr tied it with his second of the season.
The Kings put plenty of pressure on Talbot, firing 17 shots at him — the same amount he faced in the first period against Anaheim two days earlier. He made a brilliant left pad save on Trevor Lewis, who ended up alone in front after a Rangers turnover in the defensive zone.
“Our execution wasn’t what it needed to be against such a strong opponent,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We paid the price for it.”
(IRA PODELL, AP Hockey Writer)Source: The National Herald