The #freealecmartinez and #freekeatonellerby bandwagons pick up some riders, but not because of any particular player's performance (though Jake Muzzin is probably looking over his shoulder). The entire defense collectively had a terrible night, but they're lucky...
... because one Jonathan Quick moment is going to overshadow most of what they did. Quick's stumble was the backbreaker in a 3-1 loss on Opening Night at Staples Center, and it kind of defies explanation. But we'll try!
The first period consisted mostly of the Kings and Rangers exchanging spells of offensive pressure. LA seemed to be getting the better of it, especially after the first line peppered Henrik Lundqvist ten minutes in. But after Dustin Brown hit the crossbar against Henrik Lundqvist, it was New York who opened the scoring after a dreadful turnover by Drew Doughty. Derek Stepan forced the mistake by rushing Doughty's decision on where to pass the puck in his own zone, and Doughty's attempted pass went off Stepan's stick to Rick Nash. Regehr decided to block the pass, so Nash shot the puck; Quick made a fine save, but the rebound went to Brad Richards, who scored just before his momentum took him past the goal. 1-0, Rangers. Bad night for Doughty, who set up another Rangers breakaway with a turnover at the line, and went to the penalty box three times in the second period.
New York started the second period with about two minutes of sustained offensive zone control. Forced to defend during that stretch were the Kings' second line and second pairing, and both had a lot of issues last night. Mainly, Slava Voynov and Willie Mitchell couldn't get pucks out of the zone and gave possession away repeatedly. Voynov's worst giveaway created a 2-on-1 in the other direction, but Jonathan Quick robbed Benoit Pouliot with the glove on a breakaway, one of many key saves he made in the second. However, Voynov ended up contributing to a Rangers' goal despite Quick's efforts; after Jake Muzzin's long outlet to Kyle Clifford was intercepted, the Rangers got another 2-on-1. Voynov, like Regehr earlier, attempted to defend the pass; he made the right decision, but the pass from Brad Richards deflected off the stick of Voynov and through the legs of Quick.
Two minutes later, Jake Muzzin trailed the play on a 4-on-4 and made up partially for his mistake. Mike Richards had his shot blocked coming into the zone, but after drawing the defense's attention he passed across to an open Muzzin, who beat Lundqvist top corner. The Kings nearly tied the game before the second period ended, as Trevor Lewis had Henrik Lundqvist beaten on a shorthanded breakaway. However, Lewis' shot hit the post with a dull "thud," and that was that. His shooting luck will turn around someday, right?
The third period was defined by a freakish goal five minutes in. After Pouliot went to the box, Brian Boyle won a defensive-zone faceoff back to Ryan McDonagh, who cleared the puck off the boards. The puck rolled towards the other end, and Quick came out sideways to stop the puck before it went behind the net. It's a play that happens a few times per game without incident, but this time, it went horribly wrong. It happened right as Juan Uribe was winning Game 4 of the NLDS for the Los Angeles Dodgers, so it took some attention off the play, but Quick had nowhere to hide. He even got a Bronx cheer the next time he stopped a dump-in.
Quick, understandably, was not pleased and gestured to the crowd... before making some more fine saves to keep his lackluster team in the game.
Because, let's be honest, Quick didn't cost his team the game. (Yeah, I gave this its own line to make sure that was clear.)
However, his gaffe put the Kings down two on a night when they were never going to come back from a two-goal deficit. The Rangers finished off a 3-1 victory in the Kings' house. Darryl Sutter has already hinted that changes are coming on Wednesday. Not a moment too soon.