The Los Angeles Kings squeaked by the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 last week, needing a great performance by Jonathan Quick to grab two points. Last night, the offense was miles better, and Buffalo was on their heels with LA getting 45 shots on net. They still only scored two goals, thanks to Ryan Miller. Though the second forced overtime, they would fall in a shootout, 3-2.
You probably heard that Jim Fox explained the concept of Corsi to the television viewers before today's game, and the Kings wasted no time in explaining why they are currently leading the NHL in shot differential. Surprisingly, the Kings found the net early after the Sabres won a faceoff in their own zone. The puck was thrown around the boards, but Slava Voynov intercepted it at the blue line and one-timed it at the net. Justin Williams deflected the puck, and it tipped off Buffalo defenseman Mark Pysyk and past Ryan Miller. Buffalo actually got a couple minutes of pressure after that (and a couple shots!), but the ice soon tilted right back in the other direction. It would stay that way for... oh, the entire game.
Ryan Miller was stellar tonight, though he made some of his best saves in the game's first ten minutes. A glove save on Justin Williams after a long offensive shift, and then a tremendous pad save on Matt Frattin (one of two players on the Kings who can't seem to buy a goal despite getting reasonably good chances). Miller faced a total of 30 shots in the first two periods, and though the Kings got decent looks throughout, Miller looked next to unbeatable. Meanwhile, Jonathan Quick had one challenge in the first: fending off a Buffalo power play after a Jake Muzzin penalty. Quick made one save on the ensuing penalty kill; Slava Voynov covered for him on the other Buffalo shot, diving in front of the open net to block it with his chest.
So Buffalo had three shots in the first, compared to 15 for LA. The Sabres wouldn't get their fifth shot until 12:46 into the second period, but it was the one that tied the game. The Sabres had a rare offensive rush, entering the zone with a 3-on-3. Steve Ott ended up with the puck out wide, and as Drew Doughty dove to try and stop a pass, Jake Muzzin and Mike Richards both took the guy in the middle...
... leaving Cody Hodgson free on the far side. Dwight King (peeking in the right side of the frame) was unable to get back in time; Quick, perhaps sensing he was beaten, barely waved at Hodgson's shot. Despite being up 27-5 in shots, the Kings were tied 1-1.
The Kings got into trouble early in the third, after failing to take advantage of a carried-over power play. Robyn Regehr, Dustin Brown, and Slava Voynov (in that order) were all unable to corral the puck in their own end, and Justin Williams was forced to take a hooking minor to compensate for his teammates. The result, of course, was a power play goal for Buffalo. Rather than setting up a play, they simply entered the zone quickly and again took the puck wide and threw it across the front. This time, Tyler Ennis tipped the pass at Quick, and Hodgson knocked home the rebound for his second goal.
At that point, it seemed inevitable that LA would get another ten shots, but it wasn't clear whether any would actually find the net. Steve Ott picked up a boarding penalty on Justin Williams six minutes into the third, though by his usual standards, it was a pretty tame hit. The ensuing power play had a near-miss as the puck ended up behind Ryan Miller, but Miller dove back and covered it with his glove a split-second before a crashing Anze Kopitar got to it. The frustrated Kings looked like they were out of ideas, and even allowed the Sabres to get some looks at the net! Thankfully, the King-Richards-Toffoli line once again got on the board to tie things up late. Richards made a great play to nick the puck from Tyler Ennis, Tyler Toffoli put a shot on net, and Dwight King batted home the rebound a foot off the ice to make it 2-2.
Buffalo nearly managed to clinch the two points in the final minute, but after a baffling Regehr pinch created a 2-on-1 the other way, Matt Moulson could not convert into a wide-open net. Slava Voynov might have gotten in the way enough to prevent Moulson from scoring, but it sure looked like the net was at his mercy. The Sabres took a penalty immediately after to give the Kings 1:22 of 4-on-3 play in overtime, but the Kings could not take advantage, nor could they score on a brief 32-second power play at the end of OT. In between, Jonathan Quick got hurt, as you probably know; our description and video is here. So on to the shootout, where a cold Ben Scrivens allowed two goals (with the other shot hitting the post), and Mike Richards and Trevor Lewis were stopped. Hours later, I'm still not sure why Sutter chose Lewis.
There were power play struggles (0 for 5), and Quick had another one of those good-but-not-great games in net. Aside from that, there was no good reason that the Kings lost this game, because outshooting your opponents 3-to-1 means you played well. On the bright side, each of the other two times LA had gotten 40+ shots this season, they managed only a single goal. I guess this was an improvement.
More from Jewels From The Crown:
- Jonathan Quick Leaves Game with Injury in Overtime; Kings Lose 3-2
- Kings Prospect Quick Hits (11/12/13)
- Game Day #18: Kings @ Sabres Preview
- This Week in Kings (11/11/13)
- On Mitchell's recovery and pressure from Sutter to rush back