New York defenseman Anton Stralman knocked in the lone goal of the game Sunday night to help the Los Angeles Kings to a 1-0 win over the Rangers.
It was Stralman’s first goal this season, but it came on the wrong net. Kings forward Tyler Toffoli whipped a turnaround shot toward the net early in the second period and then let the Hockey Gods take care of the rest, as the puck deflected off Stralman’s skate and through Henrik Lundqvist’s legs.
The Rangers did their tenacious best to wipe out the deficit, but ran into another backup goalie playing well above his head. Back in October it was Peter Budaj, who spoiled New York’s home opener with a 27-save shutout, and this time it was Ben Scrivens, whose 37 saves made Stralman’s misfortune stand up.
It has to be an especially frustrating loss for Lundqvist, who had an answer for every single one of the 29 shots the Kings threw his way. He was beaten only by his own teammate.
But the Hockey Gods work in uncanny ways. Remember, when these two teams first met back in October, Ryan McDonagh was gifted a goal when his rink-long clearance slipped past Jonathan Quick and into a vacant net. So there may have been some poetic justice in the way the Kings won this game.
It doesn’t make it any easier to swallow for the Rangers though. After winning in Montreal for the first time in four years on Saturday night, they came back home to The Garden riding high. With momentum on their side, the start of another winning streak seemed just around the corner.
And maybe that’s why they lost. Maybe, like a tailback that runs before catching the pass, the Rangers chalked up a win in their minds before the task was accomplished. Sixty minutes later, the team was looking at the open ice before them and ruing a blown opportunity.
It’s hard to say they were apathetic though. It’s hard to say they simply let the game play itself out. They fired 37 shots on goal, including 15 in the final frame, and were dogged in trying to tie the score.
The Kings, it must be granted, are a terrific defensive team. Even with the Rangers coming at them in droves in the third period, the defense held firm and kept most of the pressure to the outside. And when they were broken down, a Vezina-like Scrivens was there to bail them out.
For the Rangers, the lack of goal scoring recently has to leave them a little perplexed. For it’s not as if the offense isn’t creating chances – in three games this week they threw 106 shots on goal – but that, all of a sudden, the chances aren’t resulting in goals.
Such is the nature of hockey. No pedestal is stable. For there are backup goalies that play like All-Stars, and there are bounces that make a defenseman want to disappear, and there are Gods that govern the game in a mysterious manner.