They say to never return to the scene of the crime. Well, the Rangers don’t have much of a choice this time, for this evening the Rangers will return to the Staples Center for the first time since falling to the Los Angeles Kings in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.
Following last night’s dynamite 4-1 win over the league leading Anaheim Ducks, the Rangers, who are the hottest team in the NHL with wins in 11 of their last 12, will have no time to bask in their latest victory. It’s time for them take the 53 minute trek North to Los Angeles.
From NYR stat folks: First time Rangers have won 11 games in a 12-game span since they did so from Oct. 30, 1993 to Nov. 24, 1993
— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) January 8, 2015
A Trip Back in Time
Flashback to June 13, 2014. That was the last time these two squads faced off against one another. For the Kings, it resulted in eternal glory; hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in front of their home crowd following a double overtime winning goal from Alec Martinez. For the Rangers, it was an agonizing, and I mean agonizing defeat.
The sight of Henrik Lundqvist lying on the ice as the Kings celebrated their Cup win is not something Ranger fans will soon forget…
After a playoff run that seemed destined for greatness, the Rangers fell into a deep 3-0 hole to start the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final. But in typical post-2005 lockout fashion, the gritty Rangers clawed their way back, and slowly but surely raised the hopes of Ranger fans near and far.
In game four, the Rangers outlasted the Kings with a 2-1 win, fending off defeat on home ice, and forcing the series back to LA for game five.
In that fifth game, the Kings jumped out to an early 1-0 lead just 6:04 into the opening period thanks to a goal from Justin Williams. And as the game went on, moving from the first period to the second, it started to feel like “one of those games,” where the Rangers would do absolutely everything except score.
But that was not at all the case. Game five turned out not to be “one of those games.” In fact, quite the opposite. Finally, at 15:37 of the second period while on the power play, Chris Kreider tipped in a perfect pass from Ryan McDonagh to tie the game at one. You could sense the collective sigh of relief in all of Manhattan when the red light when on after Kreider’s goal.
And before anyone had a chance to digest the Kreider goal, Brian Boyle stunned every Rangers fan and their mother in the waning seconds of the middle stanza, when he placed a perfect shorthanded shot over the glove of Jonathan Quick to put the Blueshirts ahead 2-1.
The game had taken a shocking turn, and the Rangers, who just minutes earlier appeared to be having an evening where they would never break through, were suddenly, in the blink of an eye, in the driver’s seat and 20 minutes away from forcing the series back to New York for a game six.
The team that appeared to be dead in the water just a few days prior, was now just minutes from making the final series, a serious series.
But as we all know, it was not meant to be for the Rangers, and a sixth game back in New York never did happen.
Approximately 37 minutes of gameplay later, following a questionable penalty call on Mats Zuccarello, a tying goal from Marian Gaborik, and one-plus periods of sudden-death overtime, the Kings’ Alec Martinez finally scored the goal, and the Kings were crowned the champions.
Retribution? Or Just a Chance for a Sweet Win?
While not a whole lot can get a team entirely past a loss such as that, aside from finally winning the Stanley Cup, the Rangers do have a chance this evening to achieve some sort small, minuscule retribution.
Tonight, following his stellar performance in Anaheim, Henrik Lundqvist will not have to stand in the spot where he once lay, defeated and deflated. Instead, Cam Talbot will get the nod for the Rangers. During last year’s Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers’ number two was sidelined for the entire series. Tonight, he’ll get his opportunity to crack the Kings.
This year’s Rangers team looks different in many ways than the one which fell to the Kings in five games almost seven months ago. It’s a new season, a new year, and a new team hitting the ice. For those who were there, though, the memories are sure to come flooding back.
The hunger for a win in this one might be just a tad higher than many other ordinary regular season contests for the Rangers. If you ask me, that certainly isn’t a bad thing. There’s never anything wrong with a little bad blood and anger heading into a game such as this one.
It’s time the Rangers get their glitzy Los Angeles due.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.