The Los Angeles Kings arrived in New York earlier this week to face the Metropolitan area’s three squads as the hottest team in the NHL.
A 5-1 thumping at the hands of the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, however, ended the Kings’ eight-game winning streak and left them out in the cold.
Well, the “out in the cold” part was planned.
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The Kings used one of their two days before facing the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday night to practice outside in Central Park on Wednesday. It was a chance to hit the reset the button before back-to-back games against the Rangers and Islanders on consecutive nights.
“I think you’ve got to be energized physically and mentally, and hopefully it does both,” Kings coach John Stevens said to L.A. Kings Insider about skating outside. “It’s a big trip for us, obviously. We’ve got two days to get regrouped here for a big weekend. Get the guys outside a little bit today, get some work done. A different experience here, but still get on the ice, get some touches. That’s the intent, anyway.”
The Kings (20-9-3) were held to 17 shots against the Devils, their lowest total since they had 15 in a 3-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 13, 2015. Jonathan Quick allowed five goals, something he has done in just one other game this season. It was an emphatic end to an impressive winning streak.
“We didn’t prepare properly, I don’t think,” defenseman Jake Muzzin said to L.A. Kings Insider. “We’re not surprised at teams anymore coming in and we’ve got to be ready from the start and I think they had the upper hand early and we couldn’t settle in and get into it. Couple mistakes in the back of the net and all of the sudden we’re down two and then we’re down four. So, that’s the way it went.”
The Rangers (16-12-3), meanwhile, are coming off arguably their most disappointing loss of the season, a 3-2 setback in Ottawa against the struggling Senators, who had lost five straight and 12 of 13. The Rangers had made headway in the standings after a poor start, but have now dropped three of four.
“Obviously we wanted to come in here and get a win against a team that has been struggling, on a back-to-back, all those things you want to take advantage of,” defenseman Marc Staal said to the New York Post.
“It’s frustrating not to be able to do that. We just kind of got ourselves in a hole and weren’t able to dig ourselves out.”
Only three teams have fallen behind 1-0 this season more often the Rangers — the Kings, Islanders and Oilers. But while the Kings have the league’s second-best winning percentage while allowing the first goal, the Rangers sit 15th with a 6-9-3 record in those situations.
If the Rangers fall behind again Friday, it may be their fourth loss in five games.
“I think it had more to do with execution than confidence,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said to the New York Post. “We gave up an early goal in the first, we gave up an early goal in the third. There are some plays in front of you that you have to make, the first two goals, we didn’t make the plays through the neutral zone and they came back to make us pay.”
Friday will be a special night for Kings forward and ex-Ranger Marian Gaborik, who will play his 1,000th career game.
Gaborik had 114 goals and 229 points in 255 games as a member of the Rangers between 2009 and 2013. He won a Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2014 against the Rangers while posting 14 goals and 22 points that postseason.
Injuries have temporarily derailed Gaborik throughout his career, but he enters Friday’s milestone game with 400 points and 400 assists.
“I think 1,000 games for anybody is a big deal,” Stevens said to L.A. Kings Insider. “It’s a hard league, it’s a tough league, the schedule’s demanding. To play 1,000 games is a great accomplishment, and to do it and get 800 points I think is a great accomplishment, and to his credit, he’s a big part of a championship team.”