We're running out of superlatives for Tyler Toffoli's ability to put the puck in the net and for Anze Kopitar's ability to do everything else, but I'm sure we can find enough of them to sustain this recap. The Los Angeles Kings continued the possession dominance they held over the Vancouver Canucks in their last matchup, but this time, they got the goals to show for it.
This game was in doubt for a while. Really! After a few strong early stops by Jacob Markstrom and a full-on save by Alexander Edler on Andy Andreoff, the Kings needed a whole 15 minutes to break the ice. Toffoli did the job, pouncing on a touch pass from Kopitar and putting it up high past Markstrom. In the third, he added another before finishing off the Kings' first regular season road hat trick in almost five years. (Carter's done it in the playoffs twice.) Toffoli now has five goals in his last three games, after only having three total in the 20 games before that, and he's back in the top ten of the NHL's goal-scoring list.
Kopitar assisted on all three of those goals, as well as winning the draw back to Brayden McNabb to set up LA goal #3. His overall game was busy eliciting these reactions:
Kopitar four assists. 20-5 on faceoffs. Geeeeeeez.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 29, 2015
Whenever we think it isn’t possible to adore Anze Kopitar more, he goes and plays a game like this.— THX BUD (@thxbud) December 29, 2015
Toffoli may have the hat trick tonight, but Kopitar is, without question, the #1 star of this game. #LAKings— Frozen Royalty (@frozenroyalty) December 29, 2015
Who is more worthy of a $10 million cap hit: Anze Kopitar or Steven Stamkos? - NHL https://t.co/r3vWqaalwT— ESPN NHL coverage (@ESPN_NHL) December 29, 2015
Oops, how'd that last one get in there? And didn't we answer that already? Of course, Kopitar's 2014-15 made the question feel a bit extravagant, but Kopitar's recent stretch is making it seem reasonable again.
As for Jonathan Quick, you may have noticed he gave up zero goals! The NHL's official recap made a point that he "wasn't tested often by the Canucks," which seems unusually opinionated for the NHL's official recap. That largely stemmed from an inept opening stretch by Vancouver, and LA continued shackling the Canucks' offense until the final five minutes or so. The goalie played well in spite of his early lack of action, though, and he only really needed help on one play, where Jake Muzzin tied up Sven Baertschi with the puck loose and a side of the net open. Otherwise, Quick handled his business, and with the Kings on the PK and pinned in their own zone, Quick held on for his third shutout of the year. He also vastly improved his brutal save percentage within the division (up to .892), and he's comfortably in the top half of starters in overall save percentage now.
That Muzzin play was part of a really strong day for the Kings' defensive rotation. Drew Doughty was typically productive, but Muzzin was noticeably good in his own end, Derek Forbort took advantage of a second game with increased ice time, and Brayden McNabb also got on the board after his early hit on Henrik Sedin set the tone. Probably worth noting: said hit was an elbow, though at real-time speed it just looked like a forceful bodycheck.
Brayden McNabb's elbow to the head of Henrik Sedin... pic.twitter.com/9kypVIyOed— Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) December 29, 2015
So apologies to Alex Biega, who I rolled my eyes at because the Canucks were already doing their retaliate-for-physical-play-against-the-Sedins thing; might have been justified to drop the gloves against McNabb at that point. Brandon Prust did the same five minutes later, ensuring that phase of the game wrapped itself up before anyone scored. (Alex Burrows did slash McNabb with two minutes to go and the game out of reach, because he's Alex Burrows.) That just led to the other phase of the game, though, the one where the Kings scored five goals. Works for us.