Is it 2014 or 2018?
For Rangers’ fans this game had the feeling of déjà vu.
In the 2014 Stanley Cup Final the Blueshirts had multiple two-goal leads, only to cede momentum and the lead to the Kings late.
Their 4-2 loss tonight followed the same script.
The Rangers came out skating well; forechecking tightly and jumping all over Jonathan Quick and the Kings.
3:53 into the opening period, with the Blueshirts on the power-play, David Desharnais attempted to pass the puck to the front of the net. But it went off a Kings’ defender and bounded past Quick for the power-play goal.
The Rangers quickly built on their 1-0 lead by controlling play for much of the first period.
Less than four minutes after Desharnais’s goal, Jimmy Vesey refused to give up on a loose puck in front of Quick’s crease.
After a couple of cracks at the puck, Vesey finally got the rubber disc past Quick and into the Kings’ net; giving the Blueshirts a 2-0 lead.
With the Rangers surging the Kings allowed their frustrations to show and started to get physical with the visitors.
After the horn sounded tensions finally boiled over.
Trevor Lewis and Tony DeAngelo exchanged words — along with some shoving — and then all heck broke loose.
Brendan Smith — still smarting from a hit earlier in the period — went after Adrian Kempe; dropping the gloves.
Smith was penalized for his actions and from that point on, the game was all Kings.
Los Angeles started the second period on the power-play and Jake Muzzin scored 30 seconds in; cutting the Blueshirts’ lead in half.
Then the wheels came off for the Rangers.
Peter Holland received a tripping penalty when he brought down Tanner Pearson. And the Kings took advantage.
Michael Amadio scored the second power-play goal of the period for LA; tying the game at two.
But the Kings weren’t done.
Nick Holden slashed Kempe on a breakaway and the Kings promptly made the Rangers pay.
Pearson scored LA’s third power-play marker of the period; wrestling control of the game from the Blueshirts and giving the home team a 3-2 lead.
The rest of the second period was all Los Angeles as they dominated the Broadway Blueshirts in all facets of the game.
The third period was more of the same as the Rangers got nothing going.
Lewis finally put the Blueshirts out of their misery; scoring an empty-net goal with 18 seconds to go in the game.
The Rangers lost 4-2 and played one of their worst games in the process. First period aside, the Blueshirts couldn’t get anything going on offense and the defense was porous at best.
BLUESHIRT BULLET POINTS
POWER-PLAY: The Rangers were one-for-four on the man advantage; extending their streak of power-play goals to six in their last 10 games.
PENALTY-KILL MIA: The Blueshirts surrendered three power-play goals in the second period; marking the first time since 2009 that the team had given up three such goals in one period.
The Rangers face Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks Tuesday (Jan. 23) at Honda Center. Game time: 10 p.m. ET. Broadcast: MSG Network.
This game changed when the officials messed up.
Midway through the first period, Kyle Clifford was assessed a charging minor when he deliberately hit Brendan Smith in the head; and it was a late hit too.
The officials, specifically Dan O’Halloran, screwed up by not giving Clifford a five minute major.
That play directly contributed to Smith losing his cool and going after Kempe when the period ended.
Smith was correctly penalized for his actions after the period ended, but the referees failed to assess a penalty to Trevor Lewis for roughing or to Jonathan Quick for crossing the red line.
Instead of both teams being short-handed, or even the Rangers being on a power-play to begin the second period, the Kings were gifted a power-play.
From there it was all down hill for the Blueshirts.
MSG Networks’ analyst Ron Duguay said it best after the game: “The referees were terrible tonight.”