By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The New York Rangers, who can claim to be this season's team of destiny, will seek further emotional inspiration from Dominic Moore and Martin St. Louis as they vie with the Los Angeles Kings for the Stanley Cup.
Back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in two decades after Moore and St. Louis rebounded from personal grief to join their team mates on a championship crusade, the Rangers trail the Kings 0-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Los Angeles rallied from two goals down to win Wednesday's opener 3-2 in overtime and, with Game Two set for Saturday, center Moore is well aware of the remarkable 'comeback' threat posed by New York's opponents.
"They are incredibly resilient," Moore, 33, told reporters about the 2012 Stanley Cup champions who this season became the first team ever to reach the finals by winning three best-of-seven series that went the distance.
"Some of their comebacks in series this year are self-evident of that. They are just a team that knows how to find ways to win and we've got a lot of respect for that. We always expected our toughest challenge yet.
"They are seasoned and they have won the Stanley Cup with a lot of players on this (2014 Kings) team," added Moore, who has played for nine different teams during his NHL career, including the Tampa Bay Lightning where he got to know St. Louis.
The Kings had been on the brink of exiting the playoffs when trailing San Jose 0-3 but stunningly fought their way through to the finals by beating the Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks and the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.
However, the Rangers have also displayed a great deal of grit and resilience en route to series wins against the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, both in seven games, and the Montreal Canadiens, in six.
During their march to the final, they have developed increasingly tight bonds, much of it following the personal tragedies experienced by Moore and St. Louis.
Moore is in his first season back with the Rangers after a year-long leave following the death of his wife, Katie, who succumbed to liver cancer in Jan. 2013.
St. Louis' mother, France, died suddenly during the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the favored Pittsburgh Pirates but the Rangers, trailing 1-3 at that point, rallied around their mourning team mate before going on to win the series.
"You definitely think about that," Moore said of New York's ability to gain emotional inspiration from personal grief. "Marty and I obviously were close before and we played with each other in Tampa.
"We have always got along really well and we have obviously come closer with the stuff that has happened to both of us.
"He was there for me a year or two ago and I think we have a pretty strong bond because of that and because of the stuff that has happened the last two months here."
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault has been delighted to see Moore and dynamic right wing St. Louis, who was acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline three months ago, find sanctuary on the ice and become team leaders in the process.
"They've found refuge," said Vigneault. "They've found a way to find a place where they can be happy, and that is at the rink with their team mates and on the ice. They've both been very inspirational leaders throughout the whole thing."
As for Saturday's Game Two, Vigneault promised that his team would bring their "best game to the table" in a bid to level the series 1-1.
"We're going to be ready tomorrow," he told reporters at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles on Friday. "Our guys need to manage the puck better, we can play a faster game and that's been one of our strengths."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Ian Ransom)