The way Marian Gaborik moved around the Madison Square Garden ice, it sure seemed as if he and the Kings were going to finish this off properly.
Looking like he was channeling his younger years, Gaborik kicked it up a level in his 1,000th game Friday, against his former team. He deked around a defender in the first period. He scored on a wrist shot in the second period. He set up goal in the third. It could have been a throwback to, say, 2007.
Then the New York Rangers pulled out a vintage No.61.
Rick Nash shredded the Gaborik story line, and the Kings defense, when he took the puck from Christian Folin and broke in to score with 3:27 remaining for the game winner in a 4-2 Kings loss. In a high-paced game with star goalies Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist, it was that type of mistake that was going to cost one side.
“They’re a very talented team,” Gaborik said. “We made some turnovers, [and] they’re a pretty quick team … Quickie made great saves out there. We could have helped him out a little more. It could have gone either way.”
It was a challenging night for the Kings defensemen against the opportunistic Rangers. After Folin lost the puck in neutral ice, all he could see was the No.61 jersey of Nash.
“I have to make a stronger play,” Folin said. “That’s the bottom line. I take full responsibility. That’s why we lost today.”
Kings coach John Stevens honored Gaborik when he sent him out with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown for the game’s opening faceoff in front of 17,756 fans. Gaborik, who was recognized during a television timeout, repaid the gesture by singlehandedly putting the Kings in position to win. His low wrist shot beat former teammate Lundqvist for his fifth goal in 11 games and tied it at 1-1.
Gaborik assisted on the Kings’ second goal with a soccer-style play to collect the puck from his feet to get a backhand on Lundqvist. Torrey Mitchell cashed in the rebound to make it 2-2 in the third period.
“He’s been a big-game player, so it’s not surprising,” Stevens said of Gaborik. “But I thought he had good jump tonight.”
Like the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, it was matchup of contrasting styles in goal: Quick aggressively challenging shooters and Lundqvist anchored deep in his net. Both worked well to keep the game close.
Quick also wasn’t given any help on the Rangers’ second goal, which resulted when Ryan McDonagh drew Dustin Brown and Kurtis MacDermid to him at the boards. McDonagh passed to Kevin Hayes and Hayes scored on a two-on-one. In the first period, the Rangers got a bounce off Chris Kreider that trickled in on the power play – the fourth straight game the Kings’ No.1-ranked penalty kill has yielded a goal.
The Kings have owned third periods this season, but so have the Rangers. That’s what made the loss burn a little more.
“I thought we were going to win that game, 100 percent,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “I thought we, at times, deserved to win that game. Frustrating loss. Good teams don’t lose two in a row and we’ve lost two in a row.”
KINGS AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS
When: Saturday, 4 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: The Kings could turn to Darcy Kuemper against the Islanders again. Kuemper beat them Oct.15 at Staples Center. Islanders coach Doug Weight called out his players after their fifth loss in six games Thursday. Josh Bailey had a hat trick in that game and leads the Islanders in scoring.