In Stanley Cup rematch Rangers take the Kings

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Since the beginning of the season the L.A. Kings have met all of their playoff opponents, except one — the New York Rangers. Thursday Night the two Stanley Cup Final teams from last season met on the Staples Center ice. Both teams say this game had nothing to do with the Stanley Cup final, that it was last season and this is a new season. But the fans know what this means — a rematch.

Staples Center-2New York fans and Kings fans alike want to have one more game to prove which is the better team. It is a new season and right now the Rangers have the better record. The Kings have had a mediocre season so far, but they have won some big games against tough rivals, like the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.

The Rangers won 11 of their previous 12 games, seven of those wins on the road. This was a highly anticipated game tonight and it brought out memories of June when Alec Martinez slapped in a double over-time goal in game five to win the cup for the L.A. Kings. Things were different on Thursday.

The first period started well for the Kings who got out to an early 2-0 lead. In the first six minutes of the period Tanner Pearson and Justin Williams scored goals, getting past the Rangers defense, which was sluggish at the start. Half way through the period the Rangers were in a power play when Dan Boyle hit a 42-foot slap shot to put the Rangers on the board.

Kings right wing Justin Williams
Kings right wing Justin Williams

The second period swung the game over to the Rangers. Kevin Klein score from 48-feet out two and a half minutes into the period and then 20 seconds later Lee Stempniak scored a third goal for the Rangers from 26 feet.

Each team had two power plays and Martin St. Louis was able to score on one for New York. The Rangers were two goals ahead of L.A. when the horn sounded for the end of the period.

Justin Williams scored his second goal of the game almost 16 minutes into the third period, bringing the Kings within a goal of their Stanley Cup rivals, but L.A. was unable to take advantage of the last power play to tie up the game. The Kings made three attempts to score in the final minute, twice by Jeff Carter and once by Anze Kopitar, but all three times the New York defense was able to keep the puck out of the net. The game ended with the New York Rangers winning, 4-3.

Rangers goalie Cam Talbot
Rangers goalie Cam Talbot

Cam Talbot was the goalie for the Rangers and he made 28 saves; Jonathan Quick had 22 saves for the Kings.

Poor defense was to blame for the Kings losing their second game in a row, the fifth loss in seven games. They missed a power play kill in the second period and were unable to score when they had the power play advantage. After the game Justin Williams said, “Four goals against yet again, for a team that prides itself on defense, is something inexcusable. It’s something we’ve tried to clean up, and something we need to continue to do, because we’re not going to win games giving up chances like that.”

The Rangers are on a hot streak right now. This was their 16th win in 20 games, going back to November 28, and their fourth win in a row, including a win in Anaheim against the Ducks two nights earlier.

Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said, after the game, “They are the better team.” Rangers fans would have preferred hearing that in June

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Kings coach Darryl Sutter
Kings coach Darryl Sutter

Saturday the Kings will face the Winnipeg Jets, a team with a 20-14-7 record and 47 points. The teams appear equally matched; the Jets are coming off a loss to the San Jose Sharks at home and a loss to the Arizona Coyotes in Phoenix. Both teams will be looking to reverse two-game losing streaks, but Staples is the Kings’ ice so the advantage, a small advantage, goes to L.A.

The one other advantage for the Kings: goalie Jonathan Quick has a save percentage of .915 and Ondrej Pavelec of the Jets is .909.

Which ever team forechecks better will win this game and that means Tenacious defense.

 (All photos by Claudia Gestro)