During the first half of November, the Los Angeles Kings were relying on their power play when goals were hard to come by. Since a five-game power play goal streak ended, the Kings' PP has dropped from 3rd-best in the NHL to the bottom half of the league, but the one PPG they scored yesterday was enough to open the door for a hard-fought victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
I attended yesterday's game and am still a little overexcited, so the numbers are going to take a backseat in the recap. The good news is, you don't really need them! LA's control of the game was so absolute (aside from a bit of a slog during the middle period) that the eye test matched up with any possession numbers I can throw in your direction. I'll do it anyway, though: it was LA's second-most dominant game at even strength of the season, after their 2-1 win over Colorado in October. The scoring chances weren't close either:
The biggest problem for the Kings was figuring out Jacob Markstrom, who looked close to unbeatable as the Kings were frustrated time and time again early on. Tyler Toffoli nearly capitalized on a turnover in Vancouver's own zone (foreshadowing!) just seconds in, but was denied by Markstrom. Anze Kopitar deked his way to the front of the net but was stopped. Trevor Lewis had a seemingly open net and couldn't capitalize. After the first 20 minutes, the only player who was able to find the net was Daniel Sedin; with Milan Lucic in the box for high-sticking, Henrik Sedin fed his brother, who slipped a shot five-hole from the circle. 1-0.
Markstrom and Quick were both tested a couple times in an otherwise uneventful second period, and in the third, LA finally broke through on their fourth power play of the game. In my infinite wisdom, I predicted that once LA stopped shanking rebound attempts, they would tie the game. Drew Doughty's goal was the opposite of a rebound, and it was a huge relief for the guy behind me who yelled out "BOBBLEHEAD!" every time Doughty too control of the puck.
With the game tied and the Kings' even strength attack unable to break through, Darryl Sutter experimented with the lines. Anze Kopitar and Brown got some shifts together, Jeff Carter appeared next to Kopitar a couple times (foreshadowing!), and Lewie hung out with Looch. On the way to a 15-1 shot margin in the third, LA nearly took all two points in regulation when a very unhappy Radim Vrbata hooked Doughty in the offensive zone...
... but Kopitar, Carter, and Toffoli couldn't find the net with Doughty and Martinez. Overtime came, and with the Sedins gassed after killing the remaining 30 seconds of PK time at 4-on-3, the Canucks had to put Bo Horvat and Jannik Hansen out against Kopitar and Carter. Horvat won the draw, doing his part, but Alexander Edler did not, and it led to this.
Aside from the obvious, here are some players I noticed (with my own eyes!) doing good things:
- Nick Shore. For the second time in the last three games, Shore got over a minute of power play time and over a minute of shorthanded time in the same game. Before November 23, it hadn't happened at all this year. Shore also got an assist AND set the screen on Doughty's goal, and he survived a second period demotion to the fourth line. Dude is going from invisibly good to just plain good.
- Jamie McBain. One interesting plotline this season has been McBain turning into a serviceable defender, and it's been hard for him to stick out in that area when Martinez has done that in a much more noticeable role. Yesterday, paired with Christian Ehrhoff, McBain got plenty of offensive zone starts but played well in the neutral zone and looked like the more comfortable of the two with the puck. He's kept Forbort on the bench and I'm actually not upset about that.
- Lewis and Dustin Brown . The goals are coming, I just know it.
Additional thoughts on the 2-1 win? Share in the comments.