Tonight wasn't the Los Angeles Kings' best game of the season. It also wasn't their most exciting game of the season. But if you were hoping for a game reminiscent of last year's playoff run? Well, you got your money's worth. Jonathan Quick overcame his recent struggles to post a shutout, and the Kings' offense put forth a consistent effort in a 4-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes.
And yet, despite the purple and black jerseys and the 2012-style performance, we got to see glimpses of the future as well. Tyler Toffoli scored on a rebound in the second period for his first career NHL goal, and Jake Muzzin continued to rack up the goals. All-around, it was a good night to be a Kings fan.
Given that the Coyotes hadn't scored in three consecutive road games coming in, it was surprising to see them testing Jonathan Quick early on. In fact, both teams got some pressure early on, but it was the Kings who took advantage of an early power play after Martin Hanzal high-sticked Anze Kopitar. Kopitar came right back (via Justin Williams, who kept his strong play going) and delivered a saucer pass to Jake Muzzin, whose deflected slap shot beat Mike Smith. Jonathan Quick was solid for the rest of the period, though Oliver Ekman-Larsson's shot off the post scared the home fans. Shots were 10-9 Kings in the first. Each period after was similar in that regard; 10-9 Kings in the second, 9-9 in the third.
The second was again contested evenly, with the Coyotes perhaps having a possession edge. But after Kopitar's brilliant lead pass nearly led to a shorthanded tally by Brown, the Kings had another chance broken up by Ekman-Larsson... when he knocked the net off its moorings. Cue another power play, and the newest King cashed in. Jeff Carter pushed Jarret Stoll's deflected shot towards the side of the net, and Toffoli finished with aplomb, putting the puck high-shelf. Toffoli hesitated for a moment, then delivered a double-uppercut celebration before getting mobbed. As the replay showed on the big screen, the Staples Center gave the rookie a standing ovation, and a loud one at that. (Oh, and Smith slammed his stick on the ice. Probably not even worth mentioning.)
The Coyotes could have been demoralized, but to their credit, they didn't roll over. Later on in the period, Raffi Torres brought a fine glove save out of Quick, and Doughty was forced to clear the puck from behind Quick on the rebound. But he didn't need help during the rest of the period, or the rest of the game. All year, the goaltenders have been forcing Sutter to make decisions, and even though Bernier seemed like the obvious choice tomorrow, Sutter may reward his starter for a strong performance. It won't matter much if the Kings' scorers continue to click, though. The Kings' two most prolific offensive players put the game away in the third.
First, Anze Kopitar received the puck at his own blue line from Williams (those two are seriously the best) and carried it all the way across the opposing blue line. Either Smith was expecting a pass, or his reaction time wasn't good enough; regardless, Kopitar's quick wrist shot beat Smith glove side for a backbreaking third goal. A clearly jealous Carter added a fourth goal in the same way, taking the puck inside the defensive zone and driving all the way down the right side to beat Smith glove side with his own wrist shot. Smith was pulled for Jason LaBarbera (wheeee) after Carter's team-leading 18th goal of the season made it 4-0, and Quick held it down to wrap up his shutout. Also, Keaton Ellerby tripped Shane Doan with a minute left, so that was fun.
Same time tomorrow, everybody?