A little sheepishness could be seen in Kings coach Willie Desjardins, but it could be forgiven.
Desjardins didn’t have it in his mind to start Tyler Toffoli and Adrian Kempe for overtime, although he said, jokingly, after the game: “I could say that.” He usually sends out Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, but they were winded from the last shift in regulation and Toffoli and Kempe got the call.
That duo had a terrific game Monday, and it fell into place when Toffoli scored 25 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
It finished a fun comeback from 3-2 down, starting with Kempe’s second goal of the game with a minute left in regulation. On the first shift of overtime, the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad was about to finish off a record-breaking game when his shot hit the post.
“As it happened, I just kind of took off,” Toffoli said.
Toffoli skated in on a late-developing two-on-one with Kempe, stopped and beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a wrist shot to silence the crowd of 16,233. The Kings walked out of the venerable arena with two points thanks to the late heroics and Jonathan Quick’s 24 saves. Jeff Carter walked out gingerly, though, because of a lower-body injury in the second period. Desjardins said he is questionable for Tuesday’s game at New Jersey.
“We didn’t want to risk anything so we took him out,” Desjardins said. “We’ll see how it reacts overnight. Usually with things like that, you can’t tell until the next morning. You just have to wait and see how it goes.”
The Kings also got a goal from Kopitar and two assists from Ilya Kovalchuk. They outshot the Rangers 9-3 in the final 20 minutes 25 seconds.
“The push in the third was really good,” Kempe said. “It’s a good confidence boost for our team, too, to turn this game around and get two points and win in OT. That was big.”
Kempe broke out twofold with his first goals since Dec. 11, a stretch of 19 games. He snapped the slump with a perfect finish of Kovalchuk’s no-look pass in the first period.
Kempe, who might get more playing time if Carter is out longer, showed he is up for the task.
“A bit of confidence boost for me,” Kempe said. “It was a good time for me to prove I can play more and be effective for the team.”
Zibanejad had a goal and an assist and became the first player in Rangers history to record a point on 10 consecutive team goals.
On Tuesday, Kovalchuk will play his first game at Prudential Center since he left the New Jersey Devils in 2013.
“It’s always good to go back and play against your former team, so I’m pretty sure it will be a lot of booing but I love it, so it’s all good,” Kovalchuk said after the game.
He helped the Devils reach the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, but his stint was tarnished. In 2010, the NHL nullified his 17-year, $102-million contract extension. Kovalchuk later signed a 15-year, $100-million deal, but it became a moot point when he retired from the NHL and returned to Russia in 2013.
Kovalchuk said he understands why there will be boos.
“That’s the fans’ opinions,” he said. “It’s a free country. Everybody can do whatever they want. I’m just a hockey player.”
Kovalchuk said he actually returned to Newark, N.J., on Sunday because he’s kept a house in nearby Alpine. He’s run into former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello and said he doesn’t sense any bad vibes.
“He did exactly what I asked him,” Kovalchuk said. “He did everything very professional. I think it was a win-win situation for both sides. The financial situation with Jersey was [bad] when I was there. They trade great players and they went to the playoffs last year. I think it’s good for both sides.”
Television feed lost
The Fox Sports West broadcast briefly lost its feed in the second period because of an equipment issue, spokeswoman Whitney Burak said in an email. It was resolved at second intermission.
TONIGHT AT NEW JERSEY
When: Tuesday, 4 p.m. PST
On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network)
Update: Goalie Cory Schneider could make his return from an abdominal injury that’s kept him out since mid-December, but the Devils also have Keith Kinkaid, who is 4-0 with two shutouts against the Kings.