Four days ago, the Los Angeles Kings arguably outplayed their opponent, but the shootout proved to be their downfall. Tonight, the Kings were arguably outplayed, but the shootout proved to be a lot more generous. Credit to the Colorado Avalanche for testing the defending champs despite having nothing to play for, but in the end, the Kings held onto fourth in the West with a 3-2 win.
[Watch the shootout here]
Lately, the Avs have found some unwanted buzz thanks to Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Giguere's comments questioned the motivation of his teammates, and Colorado responded with a superb all-around effort in Anaheim. But the Kings and their fans thought they wouldn't even see our old nemesis Giguere tonight; the Avs turned to surprise first-time starter Sami Aittokallio on the second night of a back-to-back. Unfortunately for Aittokallio, the Kings came out flying. David Jones taking a penalty 3 seconds in probably didn't help Colorado's cause, as they were on their heels from the get-go. Jeff Carter hit the crossbar early on with a gaping net in front of him, and Jim Fox theorized that it might help the young goalie's nerves.
Well, whether or not it did, he was beaten by two excellent shots in two minutes by everyone's favorite duo, Carter and Richards! Brad Malone took a holding penalty, and after an Avs clear, Mike Richards charged into the offensive zone and laid a pass back to Carter. Carter stickhandled, lined up his shot with a bit of room, and beat Aittokallio with a trademark wrist shot off the far post and in. As Bob Miller marveled after the goal: "He hasn't seen many shots like that in Finland." Two minutes later, it was 2-0. Dustin Penner gained control in the corner and set up Jake Muzzin at the point, but the ensuing slap shot was a whiff which barely dribbled the puck forward. Nonetheless, it did get past the first skater attempting to block Muzzin's shot, and when Mike Richards swooped in from the side, he had an open look and beat Aittokallio top corner.
The Kings combined three power plays with some strong offensive zone time, and after 1, they had a 2-0 lead and a 15-4 shot advantage. The Kings didn't seem to anticipate the strong response from Colorado, however, and Jonathan Quick had some work to do. He made good saves on Stefan Elliott and Ryan O'Reilly at the end of a power play midway through the second period and generally looked sharp, but a brutal turnover behind the net set up an Avalanche goal with four minutes left. David Jones poked the puck loose from Carter behind the net, and Paul Stastny reached past Slava Voynov to grab the puck and tried a wrap-around. As surprised Quick had the post covered but his legs wide open, and Stastny's bid went five-hole and in. While it wasn't the prettiest goal, it was a deserved one; the second period was clearly controlled by the Avalanche, and the Kings were fortunate to get out of the period tied when Quick made a glove save on captain Gabriel Landeskog in the final minute.
The Avalanche pulled even on both the scoresheet and the shotsheet (is that a thing?) in the third. Patrick Bordeleau only played for seven minutes total, but while he was on the ice he was a noticeable presence (especially for Jake Muzzin on this hit) and was rewarded with the game-tying goal. Quick's all-out style of goaltending contributed to a couple of fine saves tonight, but it was highlighted negatively when Bordeleau's long wrist shot hit Kyle Clifford and took an odd deflection. Quick was way out to his left in preparation for the initial shot, and he had no chance at stopping the slow-moving puck as it crossed the goal line. Shouldn't fault him too much, though; his outstanding glove save a couple minutes earlier had bailed out both Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr, and he was unscathed the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Aittokallio left the game with dehydration and/or cramps midway through the period, and Giguere was unexpectedly called into action. The Kings regained some of their mojo and nearly won the game on a Jeff Carter wraparound with under a minute left, but Giguere made a desperate lunge and trapped the puck under his glove to give the Avs a point.
The Kings controlled the overtime, and when the buzzer sounded, it was down to a coin flip. But the Kings' shooters were 3-for-3 as the Ducks had been on Sunday, and much like Sunday for Viktor Fasth, one save was enough for Quick to earn the victory. Carter scored on the same deke-to-backhand move as he did against Anaheim, Dustin Brown beat Giguere cleanly with a wrist shot, and Anze Kopitar used the can-opener to clinch the second point. Sometimes you win without a 60-minute effort, and the Kings are a bit fortunate that their limp play against one of the NHL's worst teams didn't cost them in the standings. They'll need to be better against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, and they'll need to be better to hold on to fourth place.