LOS ANGELES — Nearly seven months after the New York Rangers’ Stanley Cup hopes were crushed on the Staples Center ice, they returned to Hollywood and demonstrated why they’ve got a great chance to get back to the big stage again this summer.
Dan Boyle had a goal and an assist, Cam Talbot made 28 saves and the Rangers held off the Los Angeles Kings for a 4-3 victory Jan. 8 in a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup finals.
Kevin Klein, Lee Stempniak and Martin St. Louis scored in a 5:46 span of the second period for the Rangers, who erased an early two-goal deficit and completed a Southern California sweep with their 12th win in 13 games overall.
“It’s a tough building to come in and play, and obviously we didn’t fare very well in here last time,” said Talbot, who overcame a rocky beginning to win in just his second start in New York’s last 13 games. “It’s a good measuring stick for us. It was great to get a win in a building like this.”
Derick Brassard had two assists for the Rangers, who are on their longest streak of regular-season success in two decades. Conn Smythe Trophy winner Justin Williams got his second goal with 4:03 to play while the Kings dominated the third period, but Talbot held on during the Kings’ 6-on-4 advantage in the final 35.9 seconds.
“When we’re not skating, we don’t play to our strengths,” Brassard said. “In the first period, we were pretty slow out there. In the second period, we started skating, and that gave us a chance to win.”
New York looked sharp and motivated in its first appearance in downtown Los Angeles since June 13, when Alec Martinez’s double-overtime goal in Game 5 of the finals clinched the Kings’ second NHL title in three seasons.
Los Angeles won three overtime home games in that series, with the Rangers lamenting their repeated inability to score clutch goals.
A season later, New York cemented its spot as one of hockey’s top teams with back-to-back victories over the Anaheim Ducks and the Kings, two Stanley Cup contenders.
“We were expecting them to come out this hard,” Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. “Watching them last night, they’re on a run. They’re hot, and when you’re hot like that, you’re the best team.”
Tanner Pearson also scored for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who returned from a four-day break with an inconsistent defensive effort.
Jonathan Quick stopped 22 shots, but his teammates struggled to keep up with the Rangers’ speed and precision for parts of Los Angeles’ fourth loss in five games.
“Four goals against yet again, for a team that prides itself on defense, is something inexcusable,” Williams said. “It’s something we’ve tried to clean up, and something we need to continue to do, because we’re not going to win games giving up chances like that. We seem to be in a funk, especially killing penalties. It’s not for a lack of trying. The guys are working their tails off, but … that’s a down for us now.”
The Kings led 2-0 just 5:49 in on goals by Pearson, who snapped his 11-game goal drought since Dec. 11, and a rocket of a shot by Williams.
Boyle scored 5 seconds into a power play when his slap shot deflected off Jarret Stoll’s stick and ricocheted high to beat Quick.
The Rangers got rolling shortly after the break. Klein and Stempniak scored 19 seconds apart in the second period, both on tough-to-stop shots created by New York’s aggression and movement. Stempniak’s goal was his first in 12 games since Nov. 29.
St. Louis scored unobstructed on a rebound a few minutes later, setting off a few boos in the sellout crowd.
(GREG BEACHAM, AP Hockey Writer)