After opening the season with a loss, both the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings are two of the hottest teams in the NHL, and both clubs are looking for their longest winning streaks in more than 3 1/2 years.
Only one of those teams will match that feat Wednesday night when the Rangers host the surprising Kings.
The Rangers (5-1-0) began the season with a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 2, while the Kings (4-1-0) fell 6-3 to Phoenix in their opener the following night.
Since then, New York has won five in a row and Los Angeles has four consecutive victories – a fast start for a Kings team that failed to reach the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season in 2008-09.
“It’s a great feeling, but we don’t want to ride our highs too high and our lows too low,” Kings left wing Ryan Smyth said. “We want to stay pretty even keel and enjoy our time.”
The Kings – 2-0 on their current six-game road trip – are in position to win five in a row for the first time since Feb. 11-March 7, 2006, after beating the New York Islanders 2-1 on Monday.
The Rangers, who also started last season 5-0 en route to their fourth consecutive postseason appearance, last won six straight during a seven-game run from Feb. 1-March 2, 2006.
New York got closer to matching that Monday, when coach John Tortorella’s stern second-intermission lecture sparked a four-goal third period in a 7-2 win over Toronto.
“We had a great start to the second period, but then it was like we stopped playing,” said forward Vinny Prospal, one of five Rangers with two assists Monday. “After two periods Torts came in and he wasn’t really happy. We responded the right way, took the play back to them, scored the fourth goal right away. It was a lot easier after that.”
Marian Gaborik continued his torrid start with a goal and an assist. The All-Star right wing leads New York with five goals and nine points after signing a five-year, $37.5 million deal on the first day of free agency this summer.
Gaborik has nine goals and eight assists in his last 13 games against Los Angeles.
Sean Avery, a member of the Kings from 2003-06, has also been a spark for the Rangers after missing the first four games with a sprained right knee. The left wing and noted agitator had two goals Monday and also kept himself out of the penalty box.
Los Angeles’ success has been keyed by its top line of Smyth, center Anze Kopitar and right wing Justin Williams. The trio has combined for nine of the team’s 19 goals, and added 14 assists.
“We were put together right off the bat in training camp,” said Kopitar, who netted his fourth goal Monday on assists from his linemates. “Ryan is experienced enough and Justin is experienced enough that they know what it takes to get the chemistry going. It’s just a good mixture on the line. We’re clicking pretty good and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Smyth is tied with Kopitar for the team lead in goals, and the offseason acquisition from Colorado also has four assists.