NEW YORK – Los Angeles Kings coach Marc Crawford sees lots of potential in Alexander Frolov and Anze Kopitar.
The young Kings forwards each had a goal and an assist to lead the Kings to 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. “These guys are very good,” Crawford said. “Their puck-protection skills are at a level of elite players. They protect the puck as well as Jaromir (Jagr) does. They may not have the offensive creativity yet as Jaromir, but they are still young, still developing. They’ve got tons of talent.”
Frolov, 25, and Kopitar, 20, have been key components of the Kings’ recent surge.
The NHL’s worst team coming in, the Kings improved to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.
“Even when we were on an eight-game losing streak (Dec. 12-26), we were playing really good but we lost a bunch of one-goal games,” Kopitar said. “Our record is not great but the team is showing character and playing really hard now.”
As usual, the Kings played well against the Rangers. They are unbeaten in the last five meetings with New York (4-0-1).
Scott Thornton and Brian Boyle also scored for Los Angeles, and Jason LaBarbera made 23 of his 39 saves in the second period.
Chris Drury and Sean Avery scored for New York, which had won three straight and five of the last six.
The Kings went up 2-0 on first-period scores by Thornton and Boyle, a lead they never relinquished.
“We were playing a team that was just getting better and had nothing to lose,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “For a lot of them, it’s their first game at Madison Square Garden. We needed a start to possibly put them on their heels.”
Instead, it was the Rangers who struggled to catch up.
“I thought we should have jumped on them to get a lead, but it was the other way around” Jagr said. “I don’t think we had the energy. It’s not like we didn’t want to do it.”
Los Angeles had the first 10 shots and the persistence paid off as Thornton opened the scoring at 10:10. The Kings pounced on a turnover behind his own goal by Rangers defenceman Jason Strudwick, with Michael Handzus feeding a centring pass to Thornton.
Boyle, who made his NHL debut Saturday, got his second goal in as many games at 13:08, picking the short side from the left circle against Henrik Lundqvist.
Drury connected for the Rangers with 2:10 remaining in the period as he knocked in the rebound of Nigel Dawes’ deflection of Paul Mara’s point shot. It was Drury’s fifth goal in the last four games.
In the second, former Kings forward Avery lost the puck along the boards and Los Angeles turned the flub into a goal by Frolov at 9:18 at the end of a three-way passing sequence with Kopitar and Patrick O’Sullivan.
Just as in the first period, the Rangers got a late goal to trim the deficit to one. Avery atoned for the turnover, finding the net on a goalmouth scramble in front of LaBarbera.
Los Angeles extended the lead to 4-2 at 1:21 of the third as Frolov set up Kopitar in the slot.
Notes: The Kings activated forward Michael Cammalleri from injured reserve Tuesday. Cammalleri, who had 29 points in 36 games, missed the last 17 with a rib injury. … Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the Rangers’ five-player trade with the Kings that brought Avery to New York. … This was the Kings’ first visit to Madison Square Garden since a 6-2 victory on Oct. 25, 2002. … Rangers LW Ryan Hollweg served an automatic one-game suspension for drawing a second major penalty this season, a boarding infraction in the Rangers’ 5-3 win Sunday in Montreal. Rangers LW Brendan Shanahan missed a second-straight game with a left leg injury. … The Super Bowl champion Giants, honoured Tuesday with a ticker-tape parade through lower Manhattan, were represented at the game by Rich Seubert and Grey Ruegamer. They participated in a ceremonial puck drop before the game. … Rangers C Blair Betts, who has played in all 56 games this year, suffered a knee injury in the first period and did not return.