ANAHEIM, Calif. — When the Rangers play the Kings at Staples Center on Thursday, they will be able to call on some positive memories instead of the double-overtime, Game 5 loss in the Stanley Cup Final in June 2014.
Last season, on Jan. 8, 2015, the Blueshirts edged the Kings 4-3 in Los Angeles, with a game-winner from Martin St. Louis.
But backup Cam Talbot was in the net.
On Thursday, it will be Henrik Lundqvist’s first game against the Kings since that Game 5 defeat. Talbot started both games last year and Antti Raanta started the first one, at home, this season, a 5-4 overtime loss.
When the Rangers were eliminated, a shattered Lundqvist said: “I knew going into this series it would end in tears: Tears of joy or tears of heartbreak. And right now, it’s just extremely tough. When you play a game like this, you just hope for some guy to score that big goal for us and take it back to New York . . . I’ve never been so tired after a round like this.”
At this point, with the Rangers heading into the final weeks of the regular season, Lundqvist isn’t looking far ahead — or back.
“Right now, my concern is finding ways to win games,” he said. “We’re not in (the playoffs). It’s hard to look at the big picture, maybe the week between the regular season and the playoffs, but right now, it’s game-to-game.”
The Kings are 7-2-1 in the last 10 and lead the Pacific Division with 89 points (42-22-5), and surely are eyeing the chance to make a deep run in the post-season again after missing the tournament last spring.
The Rangers and Lundqvist want another opportunity as well, after dropping Game 7 to Tampa at home in the Eastern Conference Final last spring.
Lundqvist said it will take more than just newcomer Eric Staal and Rick Nash, returning from a leg injury that cost him 20 games.
“I think it’s important that we have big guys in the lineup,” said Lundqvist, who was victimized by several bad bounces in the recent losses to Detroit and Pittsburgh. “But we still need the same contributions from everybody else.”