The New York Rangers didn’t resemble royalty for a good portion of Monday night’s interconference showdown with the Los Angeles Kings.
Fortunately, the one who’s nicknamed after royalty was the lone exception to the inconsistent play.
Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves, and the Rangers took down LA 3-2 at Madison Square Garden, sweeping a back-to-back.
Lundqvist, one day after completing a 1-0 shutout in Detroit, was forced to pick up the slack in the early going and remained consistent throughout. Los Angeles, in the midst of their annual tour of the metropolitan area, pounced on the weary Rangers, picked up the first eight shots on goal in the game, and the Rangers (31-16-1) had trouble mustering up chances of their own. However, Lundqvist stopped each one, ending the first period with 14 stops. For his efforts, Lundqvist’s teammates rewarded him with the game’s first goal, an unassisted tally by Brandon Pirri for the 1-0 first period lead.
Play was slightly closer in the second, but the Rangers still had trouble creating good scoring chances. Lundqvist continued to make stops, and the Rangers finally were able to get a great scoring chance, as Matt Puempel, playing in his first game since December 31, scored his sixth of the season to put the Rangers up 2-0. The Kings (22-21-4) continued their sustained pressure, and finally broke through the beleaguered Lundqvist, as Jordan Nolan cut the lead in half on a rebound.
In the first half of the third period, the Rangers were finally able to tilt the ice in their favor, at long last pressuring Los Angeles’s Jeff Zatkoff. After Mats Zuccarello found JT Miller for the game winning goal of yesterday’s Detroit tilt, Miller returned the favor by finding Zuccarello for what eventually became the winner, a 4-on-4 score that put the Rangers up 3-1. It was the fan favorite Zuccarello‘s first goal since December 15, though he tallied 17 assists in that span. Los Angeles broke through Lundqvist one more time while their net was empty, but Kyle Clifford’s goal went in with just under two seconds left on the clock, allowing the Rangers to capture victory, despite being outshot 38-17.
While the Kings were doomed to their third consecutive loss, the Rangers won their third in a row. The teams will meet once more on March 25 at Staples Center.
The Rangers will have one more contest before Los Angeles hosts the All-Star festivities this weekend, taking on the Philadelphia Flyers in a nationally televised showdown on Wednesday night (8:00, NBCSN).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490