LOS ANGELES - In a building in which the Rangers couldn't help but feel the vibes of three excruciating losses in the Stanley Cup Final seven months ago, they finally got a taste of victory with a 4-3 triumph over the Kings Thursday night.
After falling behind 2-0 less than six minutes into the game at Staples Center, the surging Rangers dazzled the Kings with speed, quickness and a potent power play, scoring four unanswered goals and taking a 4-2 lead by the end of the second period. But it is never easy for the Rangers against the Kings.
Justin Williams batted in his second goal of the game out of the air with 4:03 left, and the Kings had the Blueshirts on their heels. Jonathan Quick was pulled, and with 35.9 seconds left, Rick Nash went to the box for tripping Anze Kopitar. But the Rangers held on during the ensuing six-on-four.
"I'm not sure how the players are going to respond on the ice," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said before the game, brushing aside any suggestion that this would be a rematch of the Final. "From my standpoint,'' he said, "there's nothing we can do about the past."
In the present, the Rangers (23-11-4) did respond for their fourth straight win, 12th in the last 13 games and second on this three-game California trip.
The last time the Rangers won 12 of 13 was 1973, when they took 14 of 15 from Jan. 7 to Feb. 10. During this streak, the Rangers have scored 48 goals and surrendered only 21.
The Kings, who didn't play Wednesday night while the Rangers beat the Ducks in a physical 4-1 battle, burst out of the gate and scored twice in a 1:37 span. "They did what we try to do when the other team is on a back-to-back: Jump on them early,'' Derick Brassard said. "They did and we were flat."
Ryan McDonagh fumbled the puck in mid-ice and Jeff Carter stormed down the right side. Kevin Hayes couldn't cut him off, Dan Girardi snow-angeled and Carter found Tanner Pearson at the left post for a gimme at 4:12.
The next goal was on Cam Talbot (28 saves), who was starting his eighth game of the season and the first of his career against the Kings. Williams strode into the right circle and blasted a slapper over Talbot's glove at 5:49.
Said Talbot, "You never want to give up two goals on the first five shots, but my mind-set was just to battle through and make the next save. The guys came back and responded on the power play and we had a heck of a second period and kind of took over.''
On the first draw after the Kings' Mike Richards was sent to the box for interference, Nash helped get the puck to Dan Boyle, who fired a shot from the left point that deflected down off Jarret Stoll's stick and bounced past Quick at 10:27.
Said Boyle, "The power play just feels good. We get some looks, and the thing is, it's 10 guys. Both units are doing the job."
Playing like a team possessed after the first intermission, the Rangers scored on their first two shots of the second period, 19 seconds apart, for a 3-2 lead.
Kevin Klein's eighth, a slap shot through traffic, went past Quick at 2:31. Lee Stempniak won a battle behind the net, cut around the left circle, fired into another screen and gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead at 2:50.
Alex Martinez, who scored the Cup winner in double-overtime last June 13, went to the box for hooking, and the power play struck again. After setting up and getting the Kings chasing, Boyle flubbed a shot in the slot, the puck slid to Martin St. Louis and he didn't miss at 8:17.
Defensively, the Rangers were sharp until the waning minutes. They held the Kings without a shot on goal for a 10-minute stretch in the second until Carter's with 5:26 left. In the third, the Kings didn't have a shot on Talbot in the first 6:24 and were denied on two power plays. They had only three shots on three power plays.
Said McDonagh: "You want to continue to ride this wave. Every team has these waves and we want to continue to get points any way we can and continue to climb in the standings. They came out flying but we didn't panic or go out of our way to change what works for us. It was a great comeback win for us."