We got a win. It was going to be an uphill battle for the Los Angeles Kings, regardless; the Minnesota Wild had never lost a home opener, and though they barely scraped into the playoffs last season, they're a solid team. So, even though Minnesota looked like the better team a LOT yesterday, it was good to see Jonathan Quick keep his team in it, and it was even better to see some individual players step up at different moments to get LA the two points.
What a start, huh? Last season the Kings lasted 3:41 before allowing a goal; this year, they barely lasted one minute before falling behind. It was a fluky goal, and one that might have been disallowed if the evidence was more conclusive, but it was ruled that Matt Cooke's foot served as a tool for deflection, not as an instrument for kicking. (Not that Cooke has faced questions about his foot's intentions before, of course.) The play was set up by Kyle Brodziak's nice centering feed after a Jeff Carter turnover behind the net. After a lot of confusion caused by a ref's crappy microphone, the call on the ice stood to give Minnesota an early lead on their first shot. Ugly.
Five minutes later, Zenon Konopka threw the puck over the glass, providing an opening for a Kings power play which was pretty effective last year. LA made their first man advantage of the season count, thanks to a "Did you see that?" slapshot by Drew Doughty. Anze Kopitar passed cross-ice to Doughty, who passed the puck back and forth with Slava Voynov before his shot rang in off the post. Doughty struggled to get off the mark last year; not so this season. Unfortunately, the Kings gave it right back after Kyle Clifford boarded Jonas Brodin. (Colin Fraser boarded Keith Ballard five minutes before, triggering a fight; Minnesota must think we're the league's dirtiest team.) On the ensuing power play, Nino Niederreiter (who was excellent) drove into the zone, fought off a potential hook by Doughty, got the puck back, and delivered a really nice backhand saucer pass to Brodin. Brodin beat Quick high, and the Wild carried a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Last year, LA dominated the second period, but often didn't get goals to show for it. It went the other way last night, as Minnesota outshot LA 13-3 but could not extend their lead. Obviously, that had a huge impact, so big ups to Jonathan Quick. Quick's glove save on Zach Parise with five minutes to go was his finest, but his positioning and reflexes the rest of the period kept Minnesota out of the net. With LA struggling mightily to generate offense, the first line of King-Kopitar-Williams didn't make it to the end of the second, as Darryl Sutter reunited Dustin Brown with his regular linemates. It was fun while it lasted.
The Kings needed a goal in the third, and they struggled at the outset of the period; an early power play generated no shots, and a bad slashing penalty by Matt Greene forced a busy PK unit to once again keep the Wild at bay. But the Kings made a play off a line change to tie the game with seven minutes left. Mike Richards had an effective evening, and he made a quality move past Charlie Coyle to carry the puck into the zone. Richards found Regehr on the other side, who set up a tip for Matt Frattin. Frattin's tip was stopped by Nicklas Backstrom, but Jeff Carter pounced on the rebound to make it 2-2. Dany Heatley had a good chance in front with four minutes to go, and after that, the Wild swarmed and nearly won the game with one minute left. Trevor Lewis lost his stick breaking up a bid by Brodziak, and as the team crashed the net, Lewis swooped in next to a sprawling Quick. With Quick out of position for a rebound, Coyle had what would have been a wide open net, but Lewis took a goaltender's stance at blocked the shot. Lewis ensured that the Kings would grab at least one point. USA!
After an uneventful overtime, the Kings found their execution in the shootout, and it earned them the bonus point. Anze Kopitar beat Backstrom with a quick deke and forehand shot, Quick made a gorgeous pokecheck on Mikko Koivu after stopping Zach Parise, and Jeff Carter used the backhand to put the puck up over the shoulder of Backstrom. We'll have more on the team's performance in a bit, but for now, what did you think of the season opener?