Kings convert on three power plays to get past Rangers in 4-2 win
All the Kings needed was a shove to get them going.
The timing was impeccable, both in Sunday’s game and in perhaps the ugliest stretch of their season. Down two goals to the New York Rangers in a six-game losing streak, the buzzer sounded for the first period.
Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith knocked down Trevor Lewis from behind, and it incited Adrian Kempe to go after Smith in Kempe’s first NHL fighting major.
The additional roughing penalty given to Smith ended the Kings’ streak, for all purposes.
They blitzed the Rangers with three straight power-play goals, by Jake Muzzin, Michael Amadio and Tanner Pearson, in the second period of a 4-2 win at Staples Center to put a dagger in their longest losing run since they dropped eight straight in December 2007.
“It wasn’t the start that we wanted but [Kempe] sticking up for himself or sticking up for a teammate at the end of the period there, we wanted to do something for him,” Pearson said.
Lewis deposited the empty-net goal, appropriately, to finish off a hard-earned two points for the announced 18,230 fans.
The Kings could also celebrate Jonathan Quick’s 32nd birthday, and their victory song, “Takin’ Care of Business,” finally played again. But the Smith penalty was what really resonated postgame.
“You get a freebie of a power play like that at the end of the first period, and you’re jumping on a fresh sheet of ice, you want to capitalize on it,” Anze Kopitar said.
“It’s funny how hockey works sometimes.”
Muzzin cashed in Smith’s penalty with a rising slap shot 30 seconds into the second period to ignite the run. The Kings’ inability to draw power plays — they received only six in the previous four games — dissipated as Pearson and Kempe induced penalties that led to Amadio’s second NHL goal and Pearson’s ninth this season.
Amadio sent an end-over-end puck past goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Pearson deflected Alec Martinez’s shot. Pearson’s was sorely needed for the Kings. He had a two-goal game Jan. 4, but those were previously his only scores in the last 15 games.
Before the game, Pearson said “I don’t think my game’s been up to par” and that he had to get back to the net.
That was the mantra for the Kings leading into the game.
Coach John Stevens stressed the need to be better in the “hard areas” in the slot and along the wall, areas where the Kings normally make their mark. Yet that’s precisely how they were beat on the Rangers’ second goal.
The Rangers worked the puck from the end boards back out for a point shot, and Jimmy Vesey was free to get two whacks at the puck in the slot for a 2-0 lead just more than seven minutes into the game.
David Desharnais scored at 3:53 on the power play with a shot-pass that hit Derek Forbort’s skate and went in under Quick.
The Kings recovered, and are 16-6-1 against the Eastern Conference.
If only they can bottle one portion of Sunday against the West.
“I think the second period was arguably our best period this year,” Kopitar said.
“We’ve just got to play more like that.”