NEW YORK (AP) — Marian Gaborik played parts of four seasons with the New York Rangers, so he has a pretty good idea of what to expect when the Stanley Cup finals shifts to Madison Square Garden.
And he’s looking forward to it.
“Definitely, the building has a lot of history,” the Los Angeles Kings forward said Sunday on the eve of Game 3. “Everybody that goes and plays there, it has that extra jump. Just to look around the building itself, it has some sort of an energy that you want to be in there and you want to just play.
“A lot of our guys, the whole team, will have that energy. We’re going to come out strong.”
The Kings won twice at home in overtime to take a 2-0 lead over the Rangers. This will be Gaborik’s first visit to the refurbished Garden since being dealt by New York to Columbus at the trade deadline during the 2013 season.
“Yeah, that gives you an extra jump. I’m going to see the Garden after all the renovations for the first time,” Gaborik said. “You know, they have great fans. They’re going to be supporting them. We’re going to come out hard.”
He played only 34 games for the Blue Jackets before he was traded again to the Kings at the deadline this season.
Gaborik has played a major role in the Kings’ success in the postseason with an NHL-high 13 goals.
He scored the tying goal in the third period Saturday night in the Kings’ 5-4 double overtime victory. The Kings lead the series 2-0 despite not having held a lead so far in the finals.
“Well, obviously it’s nice to be up there,” he said. “But, you know, it’s a team game and I’m grateful to be in my first final as many years as I was in the league. Playing the Rangers makes it a little more special. They’re a good team, balanced team.”
Gaborik has plenty of company when it comes to the excitement of playing in New York.
“That’s the best part of playing the Rangers, you get to play in Madison Square Garden,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “For sure the best of the old-time buildings.”
Teammate Justin Williams, who had three assists in Game 2, is also looking forward to it.
“The Garden is one of my favorite places to play,” Williams said. “I know a lot of guys feel the same way, as well. It’s fun. Should be loud and exciting.”
Gaborik had a pair of 40-goal seasons with the Rangers, but the furthest he went in the playoffs while with New York was the Eastern Conference finals in 2012, which was the season the Kings won the Stanley Cup for the first time.
One thing Gaborik and the rest of the Kings would like to do a better job of is avoiding slow starts.
The Kings have overcome a two-goal deficit in three consecutive games, including the first two games of the finals, and won in overtime each time.
“We don’t want to have to come back from two-goal deficits again,” Gaborik said. “Results count at this time of year. We want to definitely bring something better to the table in terms of playing better.”
Added Dwight King: “Yeah, it’s definitely strange. Obviously, we’d like to have a little better starts. The last three have been two-goal deficits. I think once we get the first goal, it kind of jump-starts our goal. Hope we can get the first one tomorrow.”
Another concern for the Kings is any fatigue from having played three consecutive overtime games.
“Three in a row. A lot of hockey,” Sutter said. “There’s always lots of talk about depth and those things.
“Depth only matters when you win. You need depth when you get to overtime games and games after overtime games. We’ve managed to do that.”
And the bottom line is the Kings still have a big edge in the series.
“We’re in a results-oriented league,” Williams said. “The results are we’re up 2-0. I don’t care how we got here.”
After rallying to beat the Rangers twice, Williams knows the challenge that awaits the Kings in Game 3 on Monday night.
Los Angeles has plenty of experience in that area in this postseason after rallying from a 3-0 deficit in the first round against San Jose and a 3-2 deficit in the second round against Anaheim.
“Do we feel we’ve broken them? No, absolutely not. We should know that more than anybody, that it’s tough to put a team down,” Williams said. “Especially when you’re playing for the Stanley Cup, it’s going to be harder to put a team down.”