When you think of the Los Angeles Kings of years past, you don't think of buckets of goals, comebacks from big deficits, ineffective penalty kills, goaltending woes, or shootout losses. However, that's the story so far for the 2015 Los Angeles Kings. And it's weird.
We'll kick this off with a scorching hot take: falling behind my multiple goals is bad! The Kings have done this in all four of their games in 2015, and the fact that they've managed to earn four points from these four games is a minor miracle. (Or a throwback to the 2014 playoffs, I suppose.) On Saturday, it was done in the most spectacular fashion possible: three shots, three goals against. It was a classic "bad Jonathan Quick" game, in that everyone will have a different opinion on how many goals were his fault. Me? I can't blame him on the first, when both Jeff Schultz and Matt Greene got caught out of position being physical. The second and third goals were right from the slot and after good passes, but I would have liked to see Quick stop one of them. The point is: here we are, analyzing Quick giving up three goals on three shots, and we really shouldn't have to do that.
After those three goals by Mathieu Perreault, Bryan Little, and Blake Wheeler, Quick went over to the bench, where Martin Jones wisely avoided any eye contact...
"Quick over at the bench during the TV timeout; look at Martin Jones right here, not even making eye contact." pic.twitter.com/UmG1Eis75C— THX BUD (@thxbud) January 11, 2015
... and then proceeded to stop 21 of the next 22 shots. This extraordinary save in the shootout pretty much sums up Quick at times like this: often sloppy, sometimes spectacular.
How'd we even end up in the shootout? LA is such a good possession team (and, suddenly, such a dangerous power play team) that it's almost a foregone conclusion that the Kings will cut any large deficit they face. The chances improved significantly when Dustin Byfuglien drilled Tanner Pearson away from the puck and Jim Slater put a clearing attempt over the boards. (Running subplot of the first period was Byfuglien hitting people, mainly Anze Kopitar, and Kyle Clifford's response after going down by three started a minor brawl.) On the 5-on-3, Kopitar scored on a rebound of Drew Doughty's shot, and near the end of the resulting 5-on-4, Justin Williams knocked in a loose puck after Jake Muzzin's shot-pass. Muzzin rebounded from a rough game on Thursday well enough to earn his spot on the top pairing back in the third, replacing Brayden McNabb.
The lead stayed at 3-2 for 25 minutes, though it wasn't for lack of trying; both Williams and Jeff Carter hit the iron in the second period, and Dustin Brown was skating like a man possessed... in a good way. Marian Gaborik finally, inevitably, tied the game in the third period, and when Kyle Clifford bounced a puck in off a defender, LA even held a brief lead. Zach Bogosian's shot past traffic in front of Quick made it 4-4, and in the horrible, dumb, awful shootout, Bryan Little got the game-winner. Darryl Sutter's selections didn't help: Doughty, Trevor Lewis, and Mike Richards all failed on their attempts (along with go-to guy Jeff Carter).
The lasting impact of last night's contest, of course, was this injury to Tanner Pearson. I would love to blame Jay Harrison (who did not have a good game for Winnipeg), as he was the guy who pushed Pearson initially, but with Pearson's momentum it was pretty much inevitable that he was going, well, somewhere. Tyler Toffoli, of course, is out with mono for the foreseeable future, meaning that January (traditionally a brutal month for LA) is going to be even tougher than usual.