Whew. That was an adventure. In between 42 shots on Jonathan Bernier, a major flare-up of last year's playoff tension, the ending of two long scoreless streaks, and copious amounts of Shane Doan, the Los Angeles Kings somehow managed to take home their second consecutive victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. Fox Sports is replaying this game at 12:30 AM... if you missed it, it's a must-watch. To the recap!
[Box Score] [Video Highlights]
The first period... yikes. The Coyotes were motivated and maybe even a little bit angry, looking to break a run of three consecutive scoreless games. At this point, they had their composure intact, and they took it to the Kings, racking up five shots in the first 1:12 and refusing to let up. The difference during this phase of the game was Jonathan Bernier. He got absolutely pummeled throughout but kept his composure (why yes, this will be a theme) and much like Quick did yesterday, he bailed the Kings out of a slow start. Meanwhile, LA's chance in the first 15 minutes was off the stick of Keaton Ellerby, which nicely describes the way things were going. Two big saves on Shane Doan's redirect and Rob Klinkhammer's backhand continued the Coyotes' frustration, and the Kings finally managed to turn things around with some possession soon after. And wouldn't you know it, LA got on the board first 14 minutes in. Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar got the assists, naturally; Williams set up behind the net and got the puck to Dustin Penner in front, who put the puck through the five-hole of Mike Smith for the opening goal and a somewhat undeserved lead.
The Kings closed out the period with a strong kill, and opened the next frame with a brutal power play. Call it a push. But in all, the second period was easily the Kings' best of the game, as they controlled the play in the first half of the frame and added a second goal to seize control. Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter were stopped by Smith, but Mike Richards and Jake Muzzin circled the puck back to Doughty, who had plenty of room and traffic in front. Doughty's hard shot tipped a Phoenix stick and beat Smith high glove side, and Staples erupted in relief after Drew's first goal of the season. Unfortunately, this only served to get Phoenix back into super-aggressive heat-seeking mode, and they turned up the shooting and the hitting.
Now, the wild part I mentioned. Shane Doan has always put the Phoenix Coyotes on his back, especially against the Kings. But I'm willing to venture that he's never tried so hard to do it as he did tonight. Doan had 13 hits on the evening, which is the most by any player in a single game this year. Late in the second, he threw his weight around on Slava Voynov and Justin Williams in the offensive zone. Kopitar picked the puck clean from him at one point, but Doan continued pursuing the puck until he collided with Jake Muzzin in the open ice. Unlike last year's Dustin Brown-Michael Roszival hit, this one was knee-on-knee. The question was whether it was intentional; Muzzin didn't stick his knee out, and even Dave Tippett didn't think the hit was dirty... and said so after the game. But Doan hit the ice hard, rolled, grabbed his knee, froze, got up, dropped his gloves, and charged Muzzin. Nothing went down there, and somehow NO ONE got a penalty despite a possible kneeing, a glove drop, and a big-time scrum. Didn't God create offsetting minors for these situations? Regardless, the stage was set for a fun third period.
Actually, it wasn't too much fun for either team's fans. But neutral observers must have enjoyed the third period atmosphere. The first eleven shots on goal were by Phoenix, and somehow, they didn't score on any of them. The most jaw-dropping sequence was after Tyler Toffoli's first career trip to the penalty box. Congrats, rook! The Coyotes attempted five shots on Bernier, and he was forced to make a highlight-reel pad save on Radim Vrbata, which was followed by an even highlight-reelier save on Steve Sullivan. Bernier's lunge on that one got his toe to the puck, but it also released the stick from his hands, and he spent the next minute with Jarret Stoll's stick before a merciful offside call gave him a break. As Bernier kept saving, Doan kept hitting (and yelling at the refs), and while it seemed like it was taking him out of the play at some points, it clearly got him going. Doan ended the Coyotes' 245-minute long scoreless streak at 11:28 of the third on the 4-on-4, with a fine redirect of Keith Yandle's shot.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson snapped his head back to draw a high-sticking call without contact immediately before that goal, and Brown returned the favor by drawing (or embellishing, probably) a Derek Morris interference penalty immediately after. Jarret Stoll made it count as that penalty wound down. Some really nice cycling by Los Angeles resulted in a Mike Richards cross-ice pass to an open Stoll, and he scored off the crossbar for a humongous third Kings goal. Via KingsVision, here's the goal, as well as Bob Miller and Jim Fox dropping their usual unbiased outlook for some digs at Doan.
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Composure was a bit iffy after that for the Coyotes, and Sullivan took a cross-checking penalty on Kopitar which helped kill some time. But again, Phoenix wasn't about to roll over, and Doan gave them a shot with his second goal of the game after Smith was pulled for an extra attacker. But the Kings held out, and though they needed every one of Bernier's 40 saves, they got the win. Doughty and Raffi Torres battled in front of the net and eventually got into an all-out wrestling match at the final whistle, providing a fitting end to a slugfest of a game.
Unfortunately, we have to wait until April 2 to watch the teams play again. But damn, was it entertaining. The Kings need to be better in possession and got dominated for stretches tonight, but it's good to see the goaltending and the power play clicking. And it's good to see Drew on the board.