For a team that not long ago had won two Stanley Cups in three seasons, the Kings have plummeted to a more prosaic place in the National Hockey League race.
As a matter of fact, it will take a Hollywood script — perhaps science fiction — to just get the Tinseltown skaters into the playoffs.
Nevertheless, a team still featuring such marquee types as Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter never should be taken as a skating version of Humpty Dumpty.
Having digested that news while jetting West, the Rangers objectives were simple: 1. Resume their road success; 2. Restore Henrik Lundqvist to winning form, and 3. Forget about the last two losses to the Devils and Islanders.
Translating the plan from the drawing board to the ice at Staples Center last night, the Blueshirts were architecturally on target except for the Lundqvist start.
OVERVIEW: Playing in Anaheim tonight, the Rangers have seven remaining games on their regular season slate. The objective will be to remain in a winning mode and that was established at Staples Center, with the 3-0 victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
1. ANTTI AMAZING: Taking center stage before the return of his buddy, Raanta further polished his star with his fourth blank job of the season. The Maven knows a bunch of No. 1 Goalies who’d like to be as good as the Fine Finn.
Bill Pidto, Steve Valiquette and Ron Duguay break down the early series of saves Antti Raanta made against the Kings.
2. ROAD TO PARADISE: This Rangers club is redefining road success. With their 27th victory out of Seventh Avenue, the club is a mere two short of the franchise record set in 2014-15.
3. SPECIAL DELIVERY: The visitors needed only one goal to win — Derek Stepan’s — but Ryan McDonagh scored on one of the two power plays. In this case, one out of two wasn’t too bad. But three out of three on the penalty kill was even better.
4. WINNING THE WEST: Traveling across the continent is no bother at all to the Blueshirts. Their record against Western Conference foes this season is a top-heavy 21-5-0. The includes a 11-1-0 mark against teams in the Pacific Division.
5. FOUND WEEKEND: In case you’re interested in Saturday-Sunday games, the Rangers have posted a 21-5-1 record in weekend games this season. On Saturday, it’s 11-3-0. Go figure, but those are the figures.
BEST GOAL: After Raanta produced a pair of A-1 saves, the Rangers counterattacked. Mats Zuccarello and Brendan Smith teamed up on a passing play that Stepan converted for his 14th goal of the season. P.S. It was the game-winner.
TURNING POINT: The Kings still were very much in the game at the start of the third period until Andy Andreoff took a double-minor for high-sticking Pavel Buchnevich. Four seconds into the man advantage, Captain McDonagh lit the lamp and that just about crushed Los Angeles.
WHAT THEY SAID:
1. DEREK STEPAN: “We wanted to get pucks behind the Kings and get them at the goalie. We did a god job executing our game plan.”
2. J.T. MILLER: “Our special teams were great. We always take pride in this trip and try to match the intensity of the home club. Time to get ready for Anaheim.”
3. ANTTI RAANTA: “Because the Kings are still battling for a playoff spot, we knew they would come hard and put everything on the line. In return, we played a good 60 minutes. For me, I had a few good kick saves early on that allowed me to settle in and that helped me and the team to win.”
4. ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “Antti made the timely saves when they had Grade-A looks and that made a difference along with our power play goal.”
Alain Vigneault says Antti Raanta came up with big saves when the Rangers needed it the most in the win over the Kings.
5. MAVEN REPORTER MATTHEW BLITTNER (IN LA): “The win at Staples Center was the best way to start the West Coast trip with a toughie coming up tonight in Anaheim.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Randy Carlyle’s Ducks await the Rangers at Honda Center. History has proven that the Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry outfit never can be expected to be good hosts.
GAME TIME: 9 P.M. (ET). TV: MSG NETWORK. RADIO: 98.7 FM ESPN.
BOTTOM LINE: When the Rangers special teams are special, you can expect a Blueshirts win. Time now to see whether the road mastery can continue on back-to-back nights.