LOS ANGELES - They say you make your own breaks, and the Rangers hustled and battled and bled for their first win of the season late Monday night, a 3-1 victory at Staples Center. But Jonathan Quick's improbable gaffe on a shorthanded, 180-foot clearing pass by Ryan McDonagh was what eventually crowned the Kings.
With the Rangers up 2-1 on two goals by Brad Richards, the Blueshirts had just started to kill a questionable tripping penalty called on Benoit Pouliot early in the third.
McDonagh, from in front of his net, threw the puck off the right boards, and Quick slid out to the right circle to stop it. But he lost his stick, and while he was down, the puck deflected off him and slid into the vacated cage at 4:39 of the third period.
As the sellout crowd at Staples Center for the home opener sat stunned, Quick returned to the net and just leaned over in disbelief.
The win, which evened the Rangers' record at 1-1 in the second game of this five-game opening road trip, was coach Alain Vigneault's first victory behind the Rangers' bench.
Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed four goals in the loss to Phoenix on Thursday, was in far better form, stopping 28 of 29 shots.
In his first game back after returning from offseason shoulder surgery, captain Ryan Callahan collided, shoulder to shoulder, with Anze Kopitar early in the second and left the ice bleeding from the mouth. He underwent some dental repairs from Kopitar's stick and returned in the third period.
Richards gave the Rangers their first lead of the season at 13:32 of the first period. Derek Stepan poked the puck away from Drew Doughty near the blue line and Rick Nash took a wrister that Quick stopped, but the puck bounced to Quick's left. Richards stopped it with his skate, and while falling, managed to put it in the net from a sharp angle. Nash, who led all skaters with three shots in the period, collected his second assist in two games.
The second goal for the veteran center, whom the Rangers decided not to buy out last summer, was more of a gift. On a two-on-one rush with Derick Brassard, Richards tried a pass from the left side to Brassard, but the puck deflected under Quick and in at 10:46 for a 2-0 lead. Nash, who played a spirited game, was awarded the lone assist on that tally, his third of the season.
Arron Asham, who was inserted into the lineup to provide a physical presence, dropped the gloves with Kyle Clifford at 3:28 of the second, and the teams later traded unsuccessful power plays.
At 17:46, Doughty twice hooked Stepan from behind on a solo rush after a steal, but the Rangers center was not awarded a penalty shot.
The Rangers did not score on that power play, either, but Trevor Lewis almost tied it on a shorthanded breakaway. Lundqvist appeared to get a piece of Lewis' shot with his glove before the puck hit the post.
On a four-on-four, defenseman Jake Muzzin picked up a loose puck in the slot after Dan Girardi lost the puck to Mike Richards. All the Rangers were focused on Richards while Muzzin floated behind them; Richards found him and he beat Lundqvist high at 12:11 of the second to cut the lead in half.
On his first shift of the game, Callahan came across the ice to crunch defenseman Robyn Regehr against the boards at center ice.
To say Callahan has been antsy is an understatement. He has been skating and shooting regularly for weeks, but doctors had held him back every step of the way.
"I wasn't going to come back unless I was 100 percent and be able to play in all the situations I have to," he said Sunday. "To be honest with you, I have no idea how many minutes I'm going to play [11 minutes Monday night]. That hasn't been talked about. I'm just happy to be back, don't care where I am."