With the team from Broadway in town, Kings coach Terry Murray had a simple message for his team: Don’t try to put on a show.
Smart, simple hockey had propelled the Kings to a 5-0 road trip. Nothing flashy, nothing for the highlight reel, just fundamental hockey, making the little plays at correct times.
So while a STAPLES Center sellout crowd probably wasn’t dazzled by what it saw Tuesday night, the results were certainly to the home crowd’s liking, as the Kings held on for a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers before 18,118.
``I think we did a good job of keeping them to the outside and not giving them too many rebounds,’’ Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. ``That was maybe not the most exciting game, but it works, and that's what we've got to do here if we want to be successful going down the road. There's going to be some boring hockey, but it's going to be successful. So I think it was a good game for us in that regard.’’
With the victory, the Kings remained exactly where they were at the start of the day, in fifth place in the West, two points behind Phoenix and three points ahead of Colorado.
Anze Kopitar scored a second-period shorthanded goal, Ryan Smyth added a third-period goal for a 2-0 lead and the Kings held on and extended their season-best winning streak.
The Kings inched closer to some franchise high-water marks. They have now won seven consecutive games, one short of the franchise record. The Kings have their first seven-game winning streak since 1991 and have reached the 34-win plateau in the fewest number of games (56) in franchise history.
The Kings were able to avoid a classic ``trap game,’’ that being the first game at home after a successful East Coast road trip, with only one day of rest. The Kings responded with one of their best first periods in recent memory, and never really let up.
``It's hard, coming back that first game with one day off,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``There's no question, that's probably the most difficult thing a team has to face, as far as a challenge. We talked about it in our pregame. I brought it up, obviously, the importance of bringing that attitude. There were five wins on the road, and now bringing that back in front of your home (fans), but bringing that hard work, no cutting corners.
``I said to the guys, `Hey, look, you have to take this into the dressing room yourself. You have to get yourselves ready to go now.' I can't say enough about the character in the room. We've got a great leadership group, and they took it from there.’’
New York was held to 21 shots on goal and went 0-for-3 on the power play. Only Marian Gaborik’s third-period goal, after the Kings led 2-0, prevented a shutout for Jonathan Quick, who made 20 saves and shockingly inched closer to his own franchise records.
With seven consecutive wins, Quick has tied the franchise record for a goalie, set by Kelly Hrudey (1991-92) and Robb Stauber (1992-93). With 32 wins this season, Quick is already within three of tying Mario Lessard’s single-season record of 35 (in 1980-81).
Quick didn’t get his shutout Tuesday, but he still owed a big thanks to his defense.
Since his arrival in Los Angeles, Murray has stressed the importance of defending ``home plate,’’ the area directly in front of the Kings’ net. The Kings defenend that area, against the Rangers, perhaps as well as they have all season.
Gaborik, one of the NHL’s most dynamic forwards, got a goal, but otherwise had only four shots on goal and was rarely a threat
``I think Dewey [Drew Doughty] and Scuds [Rob Scuderi] did a good job of shutting him down,’’ Greene said. ``They're really turning into a great shutdown pair. It's amazing, too, with a guy like Doughty. To be able to not only shut down the other's teams forwards, and to get chances on your own, that's exactly what you want.
``That's exactly what you need out of your top pairing of D-men, is eliminating their chances and creating your own, and he's doing that for us right now. Speaking for myself, I'm really happy with him.’’
The Kings outshot the Rangers 5-4 in a scoreless first period, and each team went scoreless on one power play. Even without a goal, the Kings had to feel good about their control of the period.
After good offensive pressure, the Kings finally found a way to beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, with a shorthanded goal in the second perod. After Dustin Brown broke up a pass in the Kings' zone, Kopitar started a 2-on-1, had room, kept the puck and scored on a wrist shot with 3:17 remaining in the period.
With his goal, Kopitar now has a seven-game point streak (five goals, six assists), one short of the career high he set in 2007-08.
``We can see Kopi, with his attitude,’’ Murray said. ``It's fantastic. Every time the puck is on his stick now, he has an attack mindset and he wants to be aggressive to the net.’’
The Kings took a 2-0 lead with 8:46 remaining in the third period. Brown came up with the puck in the neutral zone and showed great patience by holding onto it, as Smyth went to the front of the net. Brown sent a soft, short pass to Smyth, who beat Lundqvist with a close-range wrist shot.
``Brownie picked it up in the neutral zone there and crossed the blue line,’’ Smyth said. ``He made a great pass and I just got it. I took it and I shot it quick, right over his glove. ... I just wanted to get it away quick. It just happened to hit the goal post and go in.’’
New York pulled within one goal with 2:37 remaining in the third period. Erik Christensen took the puck up the right side and fed a backhand pass to the front of the Kings' net. Gaborik narrowly beat Greene to the front of the net and knocked the puck past Quick.
The Rangers pulled Lundqvist in the final minute, and Quick had to sweep his glove in the crease in order to scoop up the final scoring chance just before the horn sounded.
``We're excited to be home and respond for the fans and get them on our side, but we just wanted to play simple,’’ Smyth said. ``Sometimes that's the best way. We just kept that road mentality, for sure.’’
1 - 0 LAK
2 - 0 LAK
2 - 1 LAK
Delaying Game - Puck over glass
Interference - Goalkeeper