Defenceman Brent Sopel scored the first two goals of the game, and Sean Avery added a goal and an assist for the Kings in a 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Monday night. “This is the way we have to play every night,” Sopel said. “We have to play with hard work. This is the best league in the world, and if you don’t work hard you’re not going to get the wins. Lately we’ve been working hard and not getting the bounces – but tonight we did.”
Alexander Frolov also scored and Craig Conroy had two assists for the Kings, who won for only the second time in their last 11 games. Mathieu Garon made 28 saves for Los Angeles, which returned from a four-game road trip.
Brendan Shanahan scored for the Rangers, who were 0-for-9 on the power play in their first road loss to the Kings since March 9, 2000.
“We don’t have a single easy game this season, based on how we have chosen to play so far,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “Not that any game is easy, but you can make life a lot easier on yourself if you would just check in with the commitment of playing hard, playing together and avoiding the penalty box. It’ll kill you every time.”
Los Angeles led 2-0 through one period after outshooting New York 21-5 with the help of five power plays, one of which led to Sopel’s second goal of the game and fourth this season. He had only two in 68 games last season with the Kings and New York Islanders before undergoing surgery on his right knee in May.
“It looked like we had no legs, for some reason,” Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr said. “They jumped on us in the first period and we didn’t have a chance. We had a choice – let them skate by us or take a penalty, and we took penalties. Some guys were killing penalties the whole first period and others weren’t even getting on the ice. They kind of dominated us in that first period, and we couldn’t come back because their goalie was playing so good.”
Sopel, who missed the previous two games with a sore foot after blocking a shot in Wednesday’s loss at Minnesota, opened the scoring at 5:06 of the first period with the teams skating 4-on-4. His one-timer from 50 feet deflected off the right skate of Rangers center Blair Betts in the high slot and flew over goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s glove.
“We didn’t answer the bell,” Renney said. “You don’t want to start too many games in the penalty box against a team that’s been close in a number of games and is desperate for a win at home. Our goaltending was incredible tonight, but we didn’t measure up to our goaltender’s effort.”
Sopel scored again at 10:52 with 35 seconds still remaining on Marek Malik’s hooking penalty. He got a cross-ice pass from Conroy, and his fluttering one-timer from 45 feet above the left circle beat Lundqvist between the legs. Frolov made it 3-0 at 1:31 of the period, redirecting Conroy’s centering feed past Lundqvist.
“We talked about them being a better team than their record indicated,” Shanahan said. “They came out and had a great first period and we didn’t start playing until the second period. But by then they had built a significant lead. The penalties were a reflection of us not being ready to play.”
The Rangers scored on a wrist shot by Shanahan from the middle of the right circle that caught the short side past Garon’s stick. It was Shanahan’s 10th goal of the season and 608th of his career, tying Dino Ciccarelli for 13th place all-time and putting him within two of Bobby Hull’s total.
Avery ended the scoring less than two minutes later.
Notes: The Rangers played their first game at Staples Center since Dec. 31, 2003. … The attendance was 17,236 – 882 short of a sellout. It was the first time a Rangers-Kings game at Los Angeles did not draw a full house since Nov. 2, 1995, when 14,358 showed up at the 16,005-seat Forum. … Kings Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Miller has written a book chronicling his favorite anecdotes from 34 seasons behind the microphone. … Avery received a minor penalty for diving with 6:58 left, after Jaromir Jagr shoved him lightly from behind at the Rangers’ blue line.