As of the posting of this article, the top four players in our Rank the Kings poll were Tyler Toffoli, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, and Marian Gaborik. Without knowing anything else, you'd think "Hey, the top two lines scored and the goaltending was great! We must have won!"
Thankfully, you're right, but it could definitely have been more straightforward.
And why wouldn't it have been? The Los Angeles Kings were flying in the first period, racking up eighteen shots to the Florida Panthers' four. They got two power plays and cancelled out Florida's only man advantage by drawing a penalty within 40 seconds. They put the puck in the net twice! The problem, of course, was that only one of those goals counted; Nick Shore crashed the net on the second, running over Al Montoya and getting the goal disallowed for goaltender interference. (Pour one out for Dustin Brown, who would have gotten an assist.)
That was midway through the first, just a couple minutes after Tyler Toffoli put the Kings ahead, and it could have given the Kings a tremendous grip on the game. Instead, Roberto Luongo (who had started seven straight for Florida) came in and shut the door for the remainder of the period, and everyone and their mothers knew what was coming. LA, on game 2 of a back-to-back, slowed down. The Panthers, happy to still be in this one, sped up. The second and third periods shared identical 15-7 shot margins in favor of the home team. So how did LA win, especially considering that Florida tied things up just five minutes into that middle frame?
For starters, here's the 5-on-5 shot attempt chart via War on Ice:
Though Florida did generate more shots after the first period, they really were doing most of their shooting on the power plays. At even strength, the Kings really weren't getting run over. Jake Muzzin's two second-period helped Florida gain a foothold, and helped them score the equalizer, but once LA killed off penalty #2 they were able to keep up. Alec Martinez put the Kings ahead late in the second when Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan (who played just 13:49 combined) teamed up to give Martinez. And by that, I mean Clifford shot the puck directly into Nolan, and the puck squirmed free for Martinez to convert on the backhand. Whatever works!
It helps when Jonathan Quick plays well, too. An absolute beauty of a goal from Kopitar to Gaborik -- the first goal that those two have connected on all season, amazingly -- put the Kings up two, and Quick did his job down the stretch. (His best save can be found at the top of the article, on Jonathan Huberdeau in the third.) After looking a bit flaily (now a word!) early on, he stopped the final 25 shots by the Panthers. The two big flurries, as you can see above, came immediately after Gaborik's goal, and immediately after Florida pulled the goalie. Neither was successful. Credit as well to Drew Doughty, who played over 30 minutes on a back-to-back, including 3:47 shorthanded, and didn't take a minor penalty for the first time since November 5.
The Kings have one more game on this road trip, and it comes in Tampa on Wednesday. Get some sleep, fellas.