What could have been a huge void created by the injury to Martin St. Louis, the Rangers' second-leading scorer, hasn't turned out to be so bad so far, and one reason has been the play of young winger J.T. Miller.
Even in a listless, 4-2 loss to the Kings Tuesday night, Miller created one of the Rangers' few highlights. He set up the opening goal only 51 seconds into the game, sending a cross-ice pass to Mats Zuccarello, who scored his 13th to get the Garden crowd buzzing.
For Miller, the Rangers' first-round pick in 2011, it marked the third straight game in which he has registered a point. He scored a goal in each of the two previous games after stepping up onto the second line on the left of Derick Brassard and Zuccarello.
"I do believe his teammates and the coaching staff have a level of trust in his play that he's going to make the right decision with the puck,'' coach Alain Vigneault said of Miller. "And when he needs to come back [on defense] and come back hard, he's going to make the right reads.
"Still, like I've mentioned many times about any young player that's going through the process of understanding the game, it's not going to be perfect, but he's getting better.''
Miller, who turned 22 March 14, remains susceptible to the ups and downs, of course, and that was on display Tuesday night as well. In the second period, with the score tied 1-1, Miller fell asleep on the broken play that allowed the Kings to take a 2-1 lead.
The Kings' Justin Williams intercepted goalie Cam Talbot's intended clearance along the boards and relayed the puck to Anze Kopitar. Miller was the unfortunate Ranger seen in the television replay failing to get a body on former Ranger Marian Gaborik, who skated unimpeded down the slot to tap in Kopitar's feed behind a helpless Talbot.
After that goal, the Rangers seemed to sag, and the Kings would get two more early in the third period to go up 4-1.
Kevin Hayes scored with 3:44 left in the period to give the Rangers some life. Miller could have given them more if he had finished a shot from below the slot less than a minute later, but goalie Jonathan Quick stuffed him with 3:05 remaining.