Coming into this series, I think everyone expected that the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks would maintain their seasonal trends. The Anaheim Ducks could continue to win thanks to timely goals and good goaltending. Or, the Los Angeles Kings could assert their possession dominance and get an edge thanks to that.
Maybe it has to do with the loss of two defensemen. Perhaps it's simply the Ducks getting good matchups on home ice. Or maybe the Kings simply have struggled to get their forward corps to the level they were at during the regular season. Regardless, the Ducks have often looked like the better team in these first two games, and had a huge shot advantage in this game. No one expected that.
It looks like I've buried the lede, though. The Kings won again on Monday night, taking a 2-0 lead with another win at the Honda Center.
The biggest difference in the game? It might have been the thing which happened 34 seconds in. The thing, of course, was a goal by Game One hero Marian Gaborik. It was a textbook first line goal; Dustin Brown brought the puck out of his zone and passed to Anze Kopitar, who led Marian Gaborik into the offensive zone. Ben Lovejoy was flat-footed and Cam Fowler was too far away, so Gaborik got in all alone on Jonas Hiller and beat him short side. As is tradition, Gaborik got laid out after the goal (Bryan Allen and Ryan Getzlaf did it on Saturday, and Corey Perry did it tonight), but the damage was done. The quick 1-0 lead changed the game right off the bat, and the next two goals were the result of sustained pressure by the offensive team.
The Ducks took advantage of a power play to score their goal, as a Drew Doughty hooking penalty set up a 4-on-3. Ryan Getzlaf got the puck to Patrick Maroon about five feet away from the net, and Maroon tried to pass to Perry on the other side. It worked out pretty well, as the pass banked off Jake Muzzin's skate and past Jonathan Quick. Quick couldn't be faulted too much, and indeed, he made a few good stops in the first. The best came when Devante Smith-Pelly got a bounce off the boards and had a glorious one-on-one chance, but Quick stacked the pads and robbed him.
(This is the second game in a row in which I've pointed out Smith-Pelly's misfortune; the guy has worse luck than Mike Richards right now. He'd hit the post in the second period too.)
The Kings had struggled to get any sort of pressure going, but the second line finally got a few chances, and it led to an Alec Martinez goal. Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli got the assists; Pearson hung out in front, while Toffoli delivered a long pass to Martinez out at the blue line. As NHL.com's Corey Masisak pointed out on Twitter, the pass worked as a dummy move, as Jeff Carter let the puck go between his legs on the way to Martinez. And why not? Carter's the best finisher on the team, but Martinez scored on Saturday! His shot took a healthy deflection off of Jafob Silfverberg, and it beat Hiller to put LA up 2-1. It felt like this game could easily see three or four more goals.
Instead, it saw one. Why? In short, the Kings shut it down, and the Ducks couldn't find the net. In the second period, things slowed down in the offensive area, but that's not to say nothing interesting happened. For one, Jonathan Quick once again demonstrated how much he hates people getting in his crease; when Corey Perry crashed feet-first into him, Quick punched him in... ahem... a certain spot. Nick counted a grand total of three scoring chances at even strength in the second period, so most of the action was with players in the penalty box. Quick was game, though, and the only terrifying moment came when Drew Doughty limped off the ice during the second. Turned out a Francois Beauchemin slash (and not a subtle one, either!) had weakened his leg, and he came back soon after.
Our playoff lives flashed before our eyes there. After all, that would have put us back at five defensemen, and it would have forced another callup. Which probably leads you to wonder how Kings debutante Jeff Schultz did. The answer? Better than we expected. Bruce Boudreau and the Ducks started targeting matching his pairing with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and predictably, he found himself hanging on for dear life in those situations. But Schultz made a few heads-up plays and kept Quick's crease clear of trouble. It offers hope that in Los Angeles, he'll succeed when Darryl Sutter can keep him from getting the toughest matchups. As it was, it wasn't a bad effort, especially considering he also was third on the team in PK time behind Doughty and Matt Greene.
The third period was similar; the Ducks got more looks at Quick, but LA was still able to keep most of those looks harmless. Andrew Cogliano had a great chance early, but after forcing a turnover from Doughty he could only take the puck wide and put a tame effort towards Quick. That was the story of the third; the Ducks dominated possession and finished with a 37-17 shot advantage, but Quick stopped everything. Quick did a really good job of limiting big rebounds and didn't overcommit on any shots, and when he did lose the puck, the defensemen took care of things. After LA resisted the storm, Dwight King's empty netter finished off a 3-1 win.
Again, it's not the ideal way to win a hockey game, but on the road in the playoffs missing two of your top six defensemen, you take what you can get. The Kings are up 2-0, and even though that guarantees nothing, it's all LA could've asked for against the Pacific Division champs. Back to LA we go!