The Los Angeles Kings first met the Arizona Coyotes in their second game of the year, a mini-slump in which they dropped three games and were outscored 12-2. Things have turned around since then, both with scoring and game results, and most would expect them to beat a team coming off a back-to-back. Expectations are funny like that.
Dustin Brown scored a goal! Sorry, but it's a miracle I waited this long to say that. After putting up the second most shots in the NHL without a goal, Brown finally broke his goal drought by burying a rebound early in the 1st period after Doughty crashed the net. The faceoff was won by Anze Kopitar and the puck came back to Drew Doughty. He passed the puck to Tanner Pearson along the boards and skated to the net. Pearson found him again and Doughty put it on net. Mike Smith couldn't get to the puck off of the rebound and Dustin Brown was able to finish. We can all breathe now and fixate on something else.
Unfortunately for the Kings, the Coyotes would only need another five minutes before tying the score. Kings' defenseman Brayden McNabb made a regrettable break-out attempt right through the center of the ice that leaves me still cringing on his behalf. The puck went straight to Martin Hanzal who only needed to turn around with the puck and fire his shot from the slot to beat Quick. McNabb was immediately demoted to the third pairing as a result of his error, thus reuniting the McPairing and giving rookie Derek Forbort some time on the top pairing with Doughty. McNabb also had the least time on ice amongst defensemen after regularly seeing 20 or more minutes a game.
Hanzal ties the game pic.twitter.com/jH0Tr22hrK— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 11, 2015
Despite the knotted score, the Kings controlled play most of the first period and left it leading shots 10 to 4. Drew Doughty took a holding the stick penalty late in the period against Martin Hanzal, but the Coyotes never looked dangerous on the power play and the Kings were able to easily kill the penalty.
The second period allowed the Kings to pick up right where they left off, and they controlled play heavily in the opening minutes. Tanner Pearson was able to draw a hooking call against defenseman Connor Murphy. The Kings power play continued to impress with its puck movement, capstoned by a beautiful fake shot pass from Jamie McBain that went cross-ice to a waiting Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli let the puck find his stick after bouncing off of his skate, and skated to just inside the left faceoff dot before picking his corner blocker side on Mike Smith. It was Toffoli's 10th goal of the year, and he comfortably leads the Kings in goals this year.
The Kings drew another penalty just a few minutes later, but failed to look as potent as the first time. There was less consistent zone time thanks to clears by the Coyotes, and the Kings also faced trouble entering the zone. Still, the Kings tilted the shot total 19 to 6 in their favor by the middle of the second period. That's where things began to unravel though, as the Coyotes capitalized after a long period of Kings possession. Martin Hanzal flipped a beautiful backhand shot from the slot and Quick looked a little fooled as his glove was late in coming up into the path of the shot.
As for the rest of the second period, the Kings only put up two shots over the remaining half of the period, while the Coyotes put up eight, including the goal by Hanzal that turned the tide. Kyle Clifford was whistled on a bizarre play when the puck hit him near the Kings bench and he turned around, unsure whether to play the puck. The Coyotes skated into the zone on a 2 on 1 but the puck had already errantly been whistled dead.
The Coyotes have had poor luck on the man advantage and that continued tonight. They did have periods of time where they looked dangerous, and this continued on the second power play to close out the period. Alec Martinez snatched the puck out of the air and attempted to turn around in the neutral zone with it, but the handling appeared to be too much for the referees and he was called for closing his hand on the puck.
The Kings started the third period by killing the remainder of their penalty and things seemed to be going their way again as the period progressed. There was an absolutely unfortunate incident mid-way through the period when Connor Murphy closed his hand on the puck in the Coyotes' crease. The play was in plain view of the referee, but the puck was simply whistled dead.It did end up being a play that could have been the difference. Just inside the last ten minutes, the Coyotes took their first lead when Anze Kopitar was slow to the puck in the corner. A crease-bound pass found former King Brad Richardson for a redirect, whose stick was not tied up by Brayden McNabb despite sufficient positioning.
The Kings made a respectable final push, although seeing 4th liners in the final three minutes coupled with the fact with Quick was not pulled until just over a minute left many frustrated. In all, it was a tough night for McNabb. There have been lots of struggles early on for the young defenseman, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Ehrhoff come back into the lineup thanks to his woes.
Besides the goal scorers, positive marks to Derek Forbort and Nick Shore. Forbort looked completely comfortable on the top pair with Doughty thanks to his good skating. Nick Shore won five of his six faceoffs and was a significant factor in many scoring chances. Jeff Carter led the team with six shots, though his line did have trouble suppressing shots at even play.
Overall, it was a prototypical Kings loss in which they outplay, outchance and outattempt their opponent on the whole only to have the opposing team bury all of their good chances. Their mistakes certainly proved to be costly, especially those of McNabb. Hopefully he can spend some time on the second of third pairings re-establishing himself. Those were minutes he excelled in last year and it's tough to write him off. Fortunately, there hasn't been a lot to complain about regarding the play of low pairing regulars McBain and Forbort. It will certainly be hard for the Kings to ice a bad set of defensemen going forward.