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Kings stumble against Rangers in game marred by spitting incident

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) reacts after New York Rangers’ Vincent Trocheck scored his second goal of an NHL hockey game, during the second period, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) stops a shot on goal by Los Angeles Kings’ Viktor Arvidsson (33) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

New York Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere (13) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin, right, stops a shot on goal by Los Angeles Kings’ Adrian Kempe (9) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Linesman Kilian McNamara (93) escorts New York Rangers’ K’Andre Miller (79) off the ice after Miller received a penalty during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

New York Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere, left, celebrates with Vincent Trocheck after Trochek scored his second goal of an NHL hockey game, during the second period, against the Los Angeles Kings Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

New York Rangers’ Vincent Trocheck shoots a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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By SIMMI BUTTAR The Associated Press

NEW YORK — The Kings fell to 1-2-1 so far on their five-game road trip with a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday that included Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller receiving a match penalty and being ejected for spitting on Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.

The incident occurred late in the first period during a skirmish that broke out after a whistle behind the net. The spitting motion results in an automatic match penalty, and all match penalties are also automatically reviewed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

The Rangers, who led 1-0 at the end of the first period, killed off the five-minute short-handed situation and quickly scored twice after the Miller penalty ended to chase Kings starting goaltender Jonathan Quick.

“I didn’t see nothing,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said after the win. “Obviously, it happened, I’m not saying it didn’t happen. The kid feels bad about it, said it was an accident.”

Miller met with Doughty after the game to explain the incident and to elaborate on how his action wasn’t intentional. The defenseman said he felt badly about what happened and the two had a good conversation, according to reports.

“I was just shocked, obviously,” Doughty said during his postgame media availability. “I don’t even know if I said anything to him after, but I just immediately went to the ref to try to get the penalty. But you don’t want to see things like that in this game, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that. I’m sure it has happened, but not that I’ve seen.

“It’s unfortunate, and whether or not he meant to do it, I have no idea. … It’s a pretty big loogie on my face, so I was pretty (upset).”

Viktor Arvidsson had a power-play goal late in the second period, Matt Roy scored early in the third and Phillip Danault had two assists for the Kings.

Jonathan Quick stopped four of seven shots for the Kings before being pulled after Vincent Trocheck’s second goal late in the second period. He was replaced by Pheonix Copley, who had 12 saves.

“When you play the cream of the crop in this league, you can’t have off nights,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said.

Mika Zibanejad briefly left Sunday’s game with an injury and the Rangers’ roster issues became even more problematic. However, Zibanejad returned later and scored a goal to help the Rangers end their four-game skid

The team’s No. 1 center left late in the second period after blocking Doughty’s shot on a power play. He returned for the start of the third period.

Trocheck added an assist to his two-goal game, Artemi Panarin had a goal and an assist, Alexis Lafreniere also scored and Adam Fox had two assists for New York. Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves.

“Him coming back in the third was definitely a relief,” Trocheck said of Zibanejad.

“It’s a big one for us, just the way we’ve been playing the last couple of games, going on a little slide there,” Trocheck said. “We made sure we were able to bring it back.”

Also, Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren was not in the lineup a day after being injured on a hit by Capitals forward T.J. Oshie in the first period of Saturday’s loss. He is listed as day to day.

Shesterkin had a bounce-back game a day after he was pulled after allowing five goals on 22 shots in a 6-3 loss at Washington.

“The game they played yesterday set them up for the game they played tonight,” McLellan said.

The Rangers made it 3-0 early in the second period on two goals by Trocheck just 1:35 apart. Trocheck’s shot deflected off Roy’s stick at 2:02 and his wrister at 3:37 beat Quick for his 19th goal of the season.

The Kings made it 3-2 early in the third period on Roy’s ninth goal at 1:27. But Panarin answered for the Rangers just 44 seconds later for his 19th. Zibanejad added his 31st on the power play at 5:26 to put the Rangers in control.

The Kings got on the board on Arvidsson’s 18th goal with 1:48 left in the second as he batted the puck out of the air and past Shesterkin.

The Rangers opened the scoring in the first period as they took advantage of a turnover in the Kings’ zone. Filip Chytil got the loose puck to Lafreniere at the left side of the net. He sent a pass to Kaapo Kakko, who sent a pass back and Lafreniere’s shot deflected off Quick for his 11th of the season 14 minutes into the game.

“We kept it simple. It was a good team effort from everyone,” Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba said.

The Kings entered Sunday in a tight race for first place in the Pacific Division. They trail division-leading Vegas by two points and lead third-place Edmonton by two points.

NOTES: Lafreniere has points in seven of his past 11 games (five goals, two assists) and 10 of his past 15 games (six goals, five assists). … The Rangers recalled center Ryan Carpenter from Hartford of the AHL and sent forward Jake Leschyshyn to the Wolf Pack.

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The Kings play at Winnipeg on Tuesday at 5 p.m. PT to finish a five-game road trip.

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