Kings can thank Blue Jackets for two boosts

Kings right wing Marian Gaborik celebrates with defenseman Jake Muzzin, defenseman Drew Doughty and center Anze Kopitar. (Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)
Kings right wing Marian Gaborik celebrates with defenseman Jake Muzzin, defenseman Drew Doughty and center Anze Kopitar. (Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: June 11, 2014

NEW YORK - If the Los Angeles Kings win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, a major assist could be given to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Kings acquired key players in late-season trades with Columbus in 2012 when they won their first Stanley Cup and again this season. They took a two-games-to-none lead into Monday's Game 3 of the finals against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

In 2012, Los Angeles acquired former Flyers center Jeff Carter from Columbus for Jack Johnson and a first-round draft choice.

The difference-maker this year for the Kings who came from Columbus is right winger Marian Gaborik, who entered Monday with an NHL-leading 13 postseason goals. He also had seven assists and was a plus-6.

Carter shared the NHL lead with eight playoff goals in 20 games during the 2012 postseason. He also added five assists and averaged more than 18 minutes of ice time.

This postseason, Carter has been even better. He entered Monday tied with teammate and former Flyer Justin Williams for second in postseason scoring with 23 points. Carter had nine goals and 14 assists and was a plus-4.

After Los Angeles lost the first game to the host Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference final, Carter jump-started the Kings offense during a 6-2 win in Game 2. He scored a hat trick along and added an assist. Carter had a goal and two assists in the next game, a 4-3 win for the host Kings. He also scored the Kings' first goal in their 5-4 overtime win over Chicago in Game 7.

This is Carter's third Stanley Cup Finals in the last five years, with the other coming in 2010 when the Flyers lost to the Blackhawks in six games.

Gaborik was acquired this year at the trade deadline from Columbus for forward Matt Frattin, a 2013 second-round pick and a conditional third-round pick.

In 19 regular-season games for the Kings, he had five goals and 11 assists for 16 points.

As the series shifted to New York, Gaborik was the big story. Game 3 was his first trip back to Madison Square Garden since being dealt by the Rangers to Columbus at the 2013 NHL trade deadline.

Gaborik admitted before Game 3 that returning to New York was something he eagerly anticipated.

"It gives you an extra jump," he said.

"Playing the Rangers makes it a little more special," he added.

The 32-year-old Gaborik had 114 goals and 115 assists in 255 regular-season games with the Rangers. When the Rangers lost to the New Jersey Devils in the 2011-2012 Eastern Conference finals, Gaborik had five goals and 11 assists in 20 playoff games.

He returned to his former home as the leading playoff goal scorer in his 13th NHL season.

"Well, obviously it's nice to be up there," he said about his spot at the top of the list. "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."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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