Erik Ersberg had to wait five games before his first start of the season. Things probably looked easier from the bench.
Two early bad penalties helped put the Kings in a first-period hole, and for the most part, Ersberg didn't look sharp as the Kings fell to the New York Rangers 4-2 on wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
``We need a little bit more there,'' coach Terry Murray said of Ersberg's play.
The Kings outshot the Rangers 36-21 and, afterward, were generally pleased with their game, particularly with stretches in the second and third periods in which the Kings clearly outplayed the Rangers.
The Rangers had only one shot in the third period. Unfortunately for the Kings, it was a Marian Gaborik laser that gave the Rangers their 4-2 winning margin.
``I was very proud of the effort here tonight,'' Murray said. ``Great intensity, work on the puck. I thought the second and third period, in particular, we really got things stopped up in the offensive zone, were able to make plays and put lots at the net.
``We were down, halfway through the second period, but just couldn’t find a way. We had plenty of opportunities to get the game tied, and maybe do something when it was tied, but (Rangers coach Henrik) Lundqvist was really good.''
The Kings trailed 3-1 in the second period, had their four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 4-2 on the season. Jonathan Quick will be back in the Kings' net Thursday at Detroit.
``I think we played a pretty good game, especially low in their zone,'' Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ``I thought we gave them some trouble, but they have a pretty good goaltender as well, who made a lot of big saves for them. It’s one of those things that you just try to take the positives out of.''
Granted, Ersberg's task wasn't easy Wednesday. The Rangers entered the game with 24 goals, second-most in the NHL this season, and a 3-0 home record.
And the Kings didn't help their goalie early. Raitis Ivanans' offensive-zone holding penalty led to a power-play goal. Peter Harrold ran into Lundqvist -- his plea that he had been bumped into the goalie went ignored -- and then Matt Greene got his stick up while executing a hip check and got called for tripping.
That led to a 5-on-3 goal, and both goals were scored by Vinny Prospal, for a 2-1 Rangers lead.
``If I had made the stops, it would have been a great start,'' Ersberg said. ``That's not the first game I was looking for.''
Ersberg got burned by a former teammate. Brian Boyle, traded by the Kings to the Rangers in June, beat Ersberg with a shot. The puck hit the post, came out, then deflected off Ersberg's pad into the net for a 3-1 lead.
Ryan Smyth's first-period goal had pulled the Kings within 2-1, and Michal Handzus' deflection made it 3-2 in the second, but the Kings never led.
The Kings, in the third of a season-long six-game road trip, had a rough start against the Rangers, with Ivanans' penalty just 2:30 into the game.
The Rangers capitalized quickly, as Prospal deflected a point shot from Michael Del Zotto past Ersberg. Ales Kotalik also got an assist at the 3:11 mark.
The Kings tied it at the 4:21 mark, when Smyth skated in front of the net and deflected Davis Drewiske's point shot past Henrik Lundqvist. Justin Williams made the pass from down low to Drewiske.
Smyth has now scored at least one point in each of the Kings’ first six games and has five goals and four assists in six games this season.
Later in the period, the Kings hurt themselves again. Harrold got called for interference after he collided with Lundqvist. Then, 62 seconds later, Greene tried a check along the boards but got his stick up instead and was called for tripping.
The Rangers scored to take a 2-1 lead, but not without a lengthy video review. Prospal clearly knocked a rebound past Ersberg, but the official behind the net blew his whistle and did not signal a goal. A review showed that the puck crossed the line before the whistle, and the Rangers took the lead at the 13:03 mark.
After Boyle's goal, the Kings again pulled within one goal 7:18 into the second period, on the power play. Jack Johnson's slap shot from the point deflected off Handzus' body and the puck ended up past Lundqvist to make it 3-2.
Gaborik closed the scoring with a highlight goal. Prospal made a long, accurate pass, and Gaborik, one on one with Drew Doughty, ripped a long-range wrist shot past Ersberg 4:22 into the third period.
``He came down and just sniped it over my glove,'' Ersberg said. ``Just beat me fair and square. It was a good shot, but if we’re going to win this game I’ve got to stop them.''
Read Rich Hammond's coverage as the Kings' season continues...
Thursday at Detroit, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday at Columbus, 4 p.m.
Monday at Dallas, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 22 vs. Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 24 at Phoenix, 6 p.m.
Michael Del Zotto
1 - 0 NYR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 NYR
Michael Del Zotto
3 - 1 NYR
3 - 2 NYR
4 - 2 NYR
Interference - Goalkeeper