LOS ANGELES — The Rangers got Artemi Panarin back from COVID-19 protocol but took on the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night in a half-empty Crypto.com Arena without their coach, Gerard Gallant, who entered COVID protocol Sunday, and grinding forward Barclay Goodrow, who entered protocol Monday.
With all of the comings and goings, the Rangers put up a relatively meek performance for acting coach Kris Knoblauch and lost, 3-1, in the third game of their five-game road trip.
Two goals within the first four minutes of the second period put the Kings (18-13-5) in control of the game until Mika Zibanejad’s deflection of a shot by Filip Chytil at 11:27 of the third period pulled them to within 2-1.
After the Rangers pulled goalie Alexandar Georgiev (36 saves) with 1:52 remaining, Adrian Kempe scored an empty-net goal for the Kings with 1:17 left.
The loss dropped the Rangers (23-10-4) to 1-2 on the road trip, which continues Thursday in San Jose.
Chris Kreider was asked if hearing Knoblauch behind the bench instead of Gallant was weird.
"It’s two different coaches, but at the same time, he’s not saying anything that Turk [Gallant] wasn’t saying,’’ Kreider said. "He’s asking us to play the exact same way, and it’s on us as a group to do those things. I mean, they gave us a good game plan. And we, we didn’t execute it at all. I think that a recurring theme when things go sideways for us is you know, we’re really hurting ourselves. And we did that a lot tonight, I think.’’
Knoblauch, the coach of the Rangers’ Hartford Wolf Pack farm team, was enjoying a day off in Hartford on Sunday when he got the call to join the Rangers.
"We were in Utica on Saturday night, traveled home, got home about 3 in the morning, and then it was a day off,’’ Knoblauch said before the game. "And then I got a phone call sometime in the afternoon saying, ‘It’s looking like you’re gonna travel, and you’re gonna meet up with the [Rangers] team. Just pack your bags and get ready and we’ll confirm it and we’ll see if we can get a flight.’ ’’
It was the second time he’s had to run the Rangers because of COVID-19. He got called up last season when then-coach David Quinn and his entire bench coaching staff came down with COVID. Knoblauch went 4-2 in his six-game stint, and he said coming back this season is "exciting . . . Last year I was not sure what to expect. This year I know a little bit what to expect. I know the players a little bit better.’’
The NHL’s current policy has players, coaches and staff who are fully vaccinated and who test positive for the coronavirus isolating away from the team for at least five days. After that time, if they are not experiencing symptoms, they can return. So if all goes well, Gallant will miss two games — Monday and Thursday against the Sharks — and could be back as early as the final game of the road trip Saturday in Philadelphia.
The Kings scored twice early in the second period to take the lead. Philip Danault got Los Angeles started when he fished a rebound out of K’Andre Miller’s skates and popped it in 55 seconds into the period. Georgiev made a save on a bad-angle shot by Viktor Arvidsson but couldn’t catch the puck or smother the rebound before Blake Lizotte pounced on it and tucked in a backhander to make it 2-0 at 3:41.
"I don’t think we capitalized on our opportunities in the first period,’’ Knoblauch said. "I thought we had some good chances there. In the second period, I saw us not executing. I think L.A. worked very hard, won a lot of battles around the wall. So we really didn’t generate very much. And then in the third period, I thought we did work and gave ourselves our opportunity. We spent a lot more time in the offensive zone, but it was just too late to get going.’’
Notes & quotes: Goodrow became the fourth Rangers player currently in COVID protocol. Alexis Lafreniere shifted from left wing to right wing on the line with Panarin and Ryan Strome . . . D Patrik Nemeth returned after missing four games because of a personal matter. D Nils Lundkvist was scratched. RW Anthony Greco was activated off the taxi squad but was scratched . . . G Tyler Wall was added to the taxi squad.