For the first time this year, the Los Angeles Kings put together a comprehensive performance against a legitimately good team. (I'm not saying you aren't a good team, Winnipeg, but I'm not sure I'm buying it.) In a lot of ways, the Kings' 5-1 victory was a big-time return to form.
By that, I'm not just saying it was a return to 2013-14 form. It also included the best parts of LA's early-season winning streak. Example: Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, and Tanner Pearson once again were all over the ice. The trio had video game-esque possession statistics, with each being on the ice for at least 24 shot attempts and no more than 5 shot attempts against. The Corsi numbers were backed up with goals, too; Toffoli ended a season-long three-game goal-scoring drought by knocking in a rebound of an Alec Martinez shot in the second period. Carter picked up the fifth and final goal on a breakaway thanks to a superb "take the hit, make the play" pass by Toffoli (secondary assist: Martinez).
The first period, though, exhibited some of what we've been missing from LA for the past couple weeks, and in a way, for the whole season. For starters, we haven't seen a Marian Gaborik goal all season! After six minutes of watching his teammates on special teams in the first period, Gaborik had plenty of energy, and scored on his second shift of the evening. Vancouver was caught scrambling, and though Ryan Miller stopped the first shot by Martinez, Gaborik converted the rebound past Miller and two stationary Canuck defenders. Just like that, I covered all three of Martinez's assists; he earned the first star and played a career-regular-season-high 25:30.
He wasn't the only defenseman to step up his game. With Robyn Regehr out of the lineup, each of LA's five blueliners got a big workload, and Martinez and Muzzin absorbed the majority of the work aside from Drew Doughty. Defensemen chipped in on the scoresheet all throughout 2013-14, and tonight, Jake Muzzin got his first goal of the season as well. It was yet another occasion where LA had the Canucks running around in their own zone, and Muzzin's wrister from the blueline evaded Miller to make it 2-0.
The Kings weren't especially dominant in the first period, but they definitely were better than their opponents at controlling the neutral zone and transitioning to offense. Case in point:
LAK with the zone entry advantage in the first period - 24 entries (16 controlled, 1 failed), VAN 16 entries (8 controlled, 2 failed)3-0 LAK— James Nicholson (@ulyssesjim) November 9, 2014
One of those entries led to the third goal of the opening frame, as Marian Gaborik smartly tipped a Muzzin pass along to Anze Kopitar. Kopitar's goal... just watch the GIF a few times, I'll wait.
Was the game over at 3-0? Not necessarily, though Vancouver never really looked that interested in getting back in the game. LA put the game away in the second, as they built on a strong first with an even better second. Though the top six were obviously the strongest performers, the third and fourth lines did well enough with a lack of offensive zone starts. (The Kings had 13 forwards suit up, but it hardly made a difference, as Jordan Nolan took exactly one shift all night.) Coupled with Jonathan Quick and the shorthanded defensive corps holding it down on the back end, it was a truly complete performance.
Oh, and Linden Vey assisted on Vancouver's lone goal. Now everybody's happy!