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Kings-Avalanche Recap: LA Ends Homestand on a (Mile) High Note

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The Kings lead for the final 46 minutes (aside from a 23-second hiccup) and finish off a 2-1 win with a strong penalty kill.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It's not possible to call the third period of Sunday night's game the best period the Los Angeles Kings have played this season; when you take three penalties in the final ten minutes, you don't get to say that. HOWEVER, it was probably their best defensive period of the year, and it was enough to clinch a 2-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

[Box Score]

Let's start off with a hand for Brayden McNabb, Alec Martinez, and Jake Muzzin. The three defensemen received mixed reviews after Friday's game but were all outstanding on Sunday. They were already in fine form before the third period, where LA was (predictably) dominating the possession battle and (also predictably) clinging to a narrow lead. Nick Shore took a hooking penalty on Gabriel Landeskog at the midpoint of the third. Then, a minute into the penalty kill, LA's worst nightmare: Drew Doughty followed Shore to the box on a no-doubt tripping call.

Darryl Sutter customarily goes to Doughty and Matt Greene on 5-on-3s, but with both in the box, Sutter went to Martinez and Muzzin, with McNabb swapping in partway through. As the first penalty expired, Martinez drew a penalty on Landeskog, and the Kings were out of the woods.

Shore took another penalty with six minutes to go, but this time, Sutter didn't have to mix and match; Doughty and McNabb on one pair, Muzzin and Martinez on the other, and just two shot attempts for Colorado. This was especially huge because Colorado came in with the league's top-ranked power play, and had converted earlier in the game thanks to Matt Duchene. When Matt Greene comes back from injury, does he take over for Muzzin? At the very least, it doesn't feel like Greene needs to rush back.

That power play goal tied things at 1, and we barely had time to think "here we go again" before Tyler Toffoli got rid of the tension. Toffoli broke loose on a breakaway after reading Erik Johnson's pass perfectly, and Francois Beauchemin couldn't catch Toffoli (shocking, I know). A quick move and a forehand finish past an otherwise effective Reto Berra, and the Kings had a 2-1 lead they would carry for the rest of the game. We already discussed LA's PK clutchitude; pair it with some inept 5-on-5 play from the Avs...

... and the Kings were able to earn their first regulation win.

Goal #1, by the way, came from a guy we highlighted in the preview: Marian Gaborik. Only the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks have allowed more goals to Gaborik than Colorado's 22, and they didn't help by overloading the left side when they should have done... not that.

Naturally, Gaborik went over the pad and under the blocker to beat Berra, who made 38 stops on 40 shots. Jonathan Quick was equally good, if not better, stopping 22 of 23 and earning a second straight "even strength shutout." Way to shut us up, Jonathan.

If you didn't get the chance, vote on the players' performances here. Corsi might not help you decide your votes, because almost everyone thrived; in fact, Andy Andreoff and Jordan Nolan were on top of the heap before they got in separate scraps. (Andreoff's was immediately after Nolan's so he and Cody McLeod got sent packing for their troubles.) Derek Forbort and Dustin Brown were quiet after excellent showings on Friday, but the team as a whole was great. Isn't it nice?

First Star (as voted by the readers): Tyler Toffoli
First Star (as voted by the media): Tyler Toffoli