Jonathan Quick vs. Jason LaBarbera. Edge, Los Angeles Kings? Not tonight. Our former goaltender stopped 39 shots to backstop the Phoenix Coyotes to a 3-1 victory at Jobing.com Arena. Meanwhile, the Kings once again confronted some scoring frustration, goaltending issues, and struggles from the bottom defensive pairing.
At the end of a long road trip, the Kings managed a pretty good first period. The shots were there; setting the tone for the night, the traffic and chaos in front of LaBarbera was NOT there. The best chance came after Keaton Ellerby (playing for his spot in the lineup with Robyn Regehr on his way) hit Brad Richardson with a beautiful breakout pass. Richardson got a clean break but was stopped by LaBarbera, and two minutes later, Keith Yandle opened up the scoring for Phoenix. The third pairing of Alec Martinez and Keaton Ellerby didn't help their cause; Ellerby lost a board battle to Kyle Chipchura, and Martinez was caught on the wrong side of the net. Chipchura chipped (HA!) the puck towards the front and Yandle, pinching in quickly, knocked it past Quick for the opener.
The Los Angeles response didn't take long, and on a night where LaBarbera was tough to beat, they needed a lucky bounce to tie the game. Justin Williams is finally putting some pucks in the net after some bad shooting luck in the season's first half, and after picking off a clearing attempt along the boards, he chucked a hopeful shot towards the front of the net. One convenient bounce off Stone's chest later, the puck was behind LaBarbera. Phoenix had more quality chances over the remainder of the period, but Quick made good close-range stops on Radim Vrbata and Matthew Lombardi to keep the score tied.
Both Quick and LaBarbera had problems in one particular area throughout this game: they were overpursuing. LaBarbera was out of position after a number of shots, but he had most of the rebounds under control, and the Phoenix defense took care of the rest of the front on all other plays. Quick battled the same issue, but on the game's pivotal play, he was out of position BEFORE the initial shot, and it cost Los Angeles. Martinez tried to pinch along the boards near center ice, but Mikkel Boedker worked the puck past him to Rob Klinkhammer at the blue line. Ellerby tried to block off Klinkhammer, but he failed to prevent a pass to a streaking Lombardi. Again, it wasn't a banner night for the third pairing. Tyler Toffoli did a good job on the backcheck and forced Lombardi to take a backhander while moving away, but with Quick moving sideways, there was room for the shot. Too much room.
Quick overcommitted and was beaten to next to his right pad; he's had better moments.
The second period ended 2-1, and Los Angeles needed one of their trademark strong third periods to get back in the game. But in the final period of a five-game road trip, thy couldn't really get anything going. Slava Voynov made a nifty move past three Coyotes to draw a tripping penalty by Oliver Ekman-Larsson midway through the period. It felt like a make-or-break power play, and after the Kings got three shots blocked and a single one tipped wide, they seemed to run out of gas. With three minutes left, Alec Martinez inexplicably waited too long to try and clear the zone with the Kings making a change, and Chipchura got in the way and forced some defensive zone scrambling. While that play might condemn Martinez to the bench on Thursday, the resulting goal was on Quick; Yandle got the puck near the boards and beat Quick short-side, with no screen. Shane Doan was kept off the board, but unlike last year, the Coyotes ended this year's series with the Kings with a win.
It was a deflating end to a game that raised some questions with the trade deadline tomorrow. And Jonathan Quick had a decent game overall, but man, those two goals were not good ones to allow. But if we're taking the longview here, the Kings went 3-1-1 on this road trip and still are a comfortable 5th in the Western Conference.