The Los Angeles Kings have won two of the past three Stanley Cups, and Alec Martinez delivered the latest in dramatic fashion at the expense of the New York Rangers.
There won’t be nearly as much on the line Thursday night when the Kings and the red-hot Rangers meet for the first time since last year’s finals in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles (19-12-9) beat New York in five games in last season’s Stanley Cup final, with three games decided in overtime. That included a see-saw Game 5 before Martinez ended it with 5:17 left in the second OT to clinch a 3-2 victory and the Cup.
Coach Darryl Sutter still relives the series.
"It’s pretty fresh. I can relive it …," Sutter said. "I can relive that – not just last year’s playoff, but just about every (playoff) – I visually, in my mind, have a lot of playoff games that I can think about that seem like really not far. And it’s because we play the Rangers."
The Kings, though, haven’t looked quite as formidable as they may in Sutter’s playoff memories at times, sitting fourth in the Pacific Division and just two points clear of ninth-place Calgary.
Los Angeles has dropped three of its last four games, falling 7-6 in overtime to Nashville in the opener of this season-high seven-game homestand Saturday.
"Nobody came in prepared to play a good team," said left wing Dwight King, who has three goals in two games. "It took us a while to get into the game – and when you’re doing that against top teams, it’s tough to find a way to win."
Los Angeles should heed King’s warning since the Rangers (22-11-4) are among the hottest teams in the league, winning 11 of 12 games for the first time since the 1993-94 season.
They’re also coming off a 4-1 win over league-leading Anaheim to kick off this three-game California road trip in impressive fashion.
"I think it’s good for our confidence to know that we can play a really strong game against the best teams in the league," said Henrik Lundqvist, who had 24 saves.
Lundqvist has been vital to New York’s recent surge, going 10-1-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average. He had a 2.46 GAA against the Kings in the Cup final, making 48 stops before Martinez knocked in a rebound in Game 5. However, it’s unclear if he’ll be in net this time since backup Cam Talbot has been idle since an 18-save performance in a 1-0 win over Carolina on Dec. 21.
Talbot has won three of his last four starts – all via shutouts.
Rick Nash may be looking for a bit of redemption in this meeting with the Kings after failing to get a point in the finals. He hasn’t scored a goal in the past six regular-season matchups.
The left wing, though, scored his 25th goal Wednesday, leaving him one behind Dallas’ Tyler Seguin for the league lead.
Derick Brassard also scored against the Ducks, and has goals in three straight contests for the second time this season.
Jonathan Quick figures to get a chance to rebound for the Kings after he was pulled midway through the first period against Nashville after allowing three goals on nine shots.
Quick went 4-1 with a 1.63 GAA in last season’s Cup final.