No matter the situation, the New York Rangers can’t escape those torturous Los Angeles Kings 2014 Stanley Cup demons.
It seems every time the New York Rangers face the Los Angeles Kings, fans can’t help but remember the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. For fans, witnessing the squad that dashed Henrik Lundqvist’s Stanley Cup dreams is just too much to deal with.
But that simply is not enough. It seems that almost every time the Rangers have faced the Kings since that Stanley Cup Final, the Blueshirts fall to them in the most excruciating ways possible, just like they did in June 2014.
I’m sure we all know by now, but first a refresher.
The Kings defeated the Rangers in five games in 2014, three of them in overtime. The Rangers possessed two-goal leads in the first two games of that final, three in Game 2 alone. The Kings came back to win both games in overtime, which included a controversial non-call in game two.
Even the NHL admitted it should have been goalie interference, but that’s a different topic. The Rangers were never able to recover from those two games and then blew another late lead in Game 5 where Alec Martinez got the series winner in overtime.
Since then, almost every Rangers loss to the Kings seems to replicate the same circumstances and outcome of that Stanley Cup. I have talked about it before how the Rangers lack killer instinct, but no team takes advantage of that more than the Kings. Let’s take a look back going from this year to the year after that series.
Monday night the Kings beat the Rangers 4-3. Just like 2014, no matter how many times the Rangers took the lead, the Kings just kept answering. Adrian Kempe scored to tie it with under a minute left, then Tyler Toffoli scored the game-winner in overtime just seconds after Mika Zibanejad hit the post. An overtime goal by the Kings against the Blueshirts? That won’t remind Rangers fans of 2014, right?
But it does not stop there.
Monday the Kings went two-for-two in reminding the Rangers how they can never put them away. In October, the two faced off in Los Angeles. The Rangers gained a two-goal lead but gave it away as they did in games one and two. L.A. took the lead at one point only for the Rangers to tie it, but the Kings would get a goal with under a minute left to put the dagger in their hearts and win 4-3. Who scored the game-winner? Why Martinez, of course.
Last year, the Rangers did salvage a 4-2 win at Madison Square Garden against the Kings. This time it was the Blueshirts, on the stick of Rick Nash, getting the late goal to win the game. But that was only the first matchup of the season, they faced off again at the Staples Center where the Kings won the second by the same score.
Did the Rangers have a lead that game? Yes. What was it? 2-0. L.A. scored four straight unanswered. So that’s now two times in the previous two seasons that the Rangers blew two-goal leads against the Kings in Los Angeles.
In 2016-17, the Rangers were allowed a break from the flashbacks. They swept the Kings in both games, including a shut out in Los Angeles. Ranger fans probably were not fully comfortable until Nash scored the empty netter to make it 3-0 that game.
We are going to skip 2015-16 and come back to it later due to the idea that the worst of these repeat games came that season.
In the 2014-15 season, in the Rangers first game against the Kings since losing to them in the Stanley Cup Final, the tables turned for once. This time it was the Rangers that came back from a two-goal lead at the Staples Center. But even though the Rangers won, the Kings gave Blueshirts fans the first of these series flashbacks.
The Rangers made the score 4-2 heading into the third. Justin Williams scored late in the third to cut it to one. New York held on to win, but still, Ranger fans must have been thinking, “Oh God, please not again.” Thankfully it was not the case that night. The Kings did get revenge that season at the Garden but thankfully it didn’t involve overtime or overcoming a two-goal deficit.
Now onto 2015-16, the first game came in February at the Garden. The Rangers overcame a two-goal deficit and had a late lead. However, Anze Kopitar scored with 30 seconds left in the game to complete a hat trick. Tanner Pearson scored in overtime to win the game 5-4. Very similar elements to Monday at the Garden.
This game was certainly painful, but the worst of it came the next month. The Blueshirts held a 3-1 lead, heading into the third. Two-goal lead, oh boy. Did the Rangers hold them off? Nope.
Coughing up the two-goal lead is bad enough. Even worse was that like game two of the Finals, a King made contact with Henrik Lundqvist in the crease on one of the goals. In this case, it was not as blatant, there was not sufficient evidence to overturn the call even though it looked like Ryan McDonagh initiated the contact. But still, it hurts to think back to that Game 2 and if the officials made the right call, the series could have turned out completely different.
This game was two for two in flashback triggers so far. The Rangers coughed up a two-goal lead, and there was contact with Lundqvist on one of the goals. All that was missing was the overtime winner by Martinez. Surely enough, the Kings scored a minute and a half into the overtime, but it was on the stick of Kopitar.
Since they met in the Finals in 2014, the Kings beat the Rangers in overtime three times out of 10 matchups. The Rangers gave up two-goal leads three times, all of them at the Staples Center. Finally, they gave up goals with under a minute left three times since. Sure there were not any goals with under a minute left in that series (though L.A. came close in game four), but the point still stands that the Rangers can’t get away.
New team, new coach, it does not matter. It’s like the presence of the Kings is not enough to remind Rangers of those demons. L.A. wins in almost the exact same way they won games in that series.
It’s hard enough to be a New York Rangers fan in the middle of a rebuild. The team already has troubles closing out games as it is. Losing in that style to the team that arguably started that whole ordeal, that’s not just putting a dagger in the hearts of fans, it’s twisting it too.