Thursday night was, in all likelihood, the final time that the Los Angeles Kings will play a team from Canada until next season. They made the most of this wonderful opportunity, crushing the Edmonton Oilers 3-0.
Though LA distributed the aforementioned crushing over the course of the game, it only took the Kings 27 seconds to crush the Oilers' spirits. Marian Gaborik entered the zone and slid the puck across to Justin Williams, who dipped below the goal line before making a pass to the front of the net. Anze Kopitar was there to provide a tap-in finish for his 200th career goal. Three more points for the first line, and the Kings were off and running. The first line didn't wait too long to get back on the board; this time, the roles were reversed. Kopitar made the zone entry with control, and Gaborik supplied the finish. The second goal was flukier than the first, though, as Willie Mitchell's flubbed shot went right to Gaborik with Viktor Fasth caught off-guard.
That's not to say that the Kings were fortunate to be up 2-0. In fact, it could've been worse... which we'll reiterate later as well. Jarret Stoll hit the post on a late power play, and the Kings had six scoring chances to the Oilers' two (neither of which troubled Martin Jones). Edmonton didn't really find a grade-A chance until early in the second, when Jones pulled out a spectacular save to rob Taylor Hall. David Perron found some space breaking in on goal but instead wheeled around the net, taking both Jones and Slava Voynov with him. Jake Muzzin tried (and failed) to block Perron's pass to the front, but Jones managed to recover, lunge across the net, and stop Hall's one-timer with the blocker.
That sequence was part of a five-minute stretch where the Oilers managed to get the bulk of the opportunities. Once that ended, it was back to the Kings dictating play, and Fasth made a nice save on a Dwight King breakaway and made four saves while the Oilers killed off a too-many-men penalty. However, Fasth's efforts were largely nullified when Marian Gaborik scored again with six minutes left in the second; his wrist shot just inside the blue line knuckled, but it should have been stopped. No complaints from Gaborik, who got his 5th goal and 15th point in eighteen games with the Kings. Just to give you an idea, that point pace (five points every six games) is essentially the pace that Anze Kopitar has carried during this season.
Tyler Toffoli hit the crossbar with two minutes to go in the second, and the Kings would have been excused if they had taken it easy in the third period. But because the theme of this recap is "It could have been worse," LA came out in the third and took 23 shots. It's hard to remember any third period where the Kings dominated this much with the game already in hand, and they did it with Darryl Sutter rolling four lines almost evenly. Every forward for the Kings played at least 12 minutes, and not one played more than 19 minutes. Just what the doctor ordered in the season's second-to-last game, and only Fasth prevented the game from getting truly out of hand. (Oh, and a goaltender interference on Williams, which prevented Gaborik from earning a hat trick.)
Granted, it's the Oilers, but this game was a nice opportunity for the Kings to address concerns that their game was slipping in April. It was also a nice opportunity to move closer to the Jennings Trophy, and Jones' fourth shutout of the season did the trick. The Kings have allowed three fewer goals this season than the Boston Bruins, who still have an additional game left to play. Again, it's a reminder that though only Jonathan Quick would get recognized as the Jennings Trophy recipient, the Kings' 2013-14 backups (one of whom was on the Oilers' bench tonight) had a huge hand in the Kings' defensive success this year.
Plus, no penalties for the second straight game! Now to prepare for what could be a month's worth of games against teams from California. Oh, joy.