Two of the league's strongest defensive teams did their thing tonight. In games like that, it's usually the special teams that makes the difference. Going in, the Detroit Red Wings had a huge advantage in that department. So how on earth did the Los Angeles Kings survive against the league's best power play team and seventh-best penalty kill?
I'll tell you!
Well, step one was to score a power play goal. The Kings had gotten exactly one goal with the man advantage over the course of their seven consecutive wins, and considering it came with the opposing net empty, it wasn't exactly an impressive one. Against San Jose, the Kings used four different power play combinations at forward: 12-11-23 and 74-77-73 (the top two lines), 12-11-77 (the one that couldn't stop scoring earlier this year), and 74-37-73 (all right then). Tonight, LA kicked things off with good old Justin Williams joining Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, and the combo got LA's first power play goal against a goalie since February 5. Good movement got Jake Muzzin a point shot, and both Kopitar and Williams tipped the shot with the shafts of their sticks on the way past Jonas Gustavsson.
Gustavsson has been a punchline at times in his career, but he had a solid evening in net, and he held the Kings off during LA's excellent first period and during some strong moments during the second and third. More specifically, the Kings' only other full power play in the third was a thing of beauty. After Jakub Kindl went to the box, LA got some bonus time thanks to Luke Glendening's puck-over-glass penalty. The 5-on-3 didn't get a whole lot going but the 5-on-4 after was absolutely dominant. Kopitar did whatever he wanted at the point, Tyler Toffoli got some clean looks, and Marian Gaborik was able to plant himself in front and get not one, but two rebounds from close range. (Think Game-Five-goal-against-Lundqvist close range.)
Even so, the Kings couldn't break through, and after Gaborik hit the crossbar and LA got a number of other looks in the first, Detroit started finding their game. That's where Jonathan Quick and the penalty killers came in. Quick, who has been in fine form for a couple weeks now, only had one mistake all night; he got lost behind the net, but Drew Doughty's MERE PRESENCE forced Stephen Weiss into putting the puck wide with a gaping net in front of him. (Or he missed it, I guess.) Otherwise, Quick's positioning was really good, especially on this glove save on Gustav Nyquist:
Detroit had five power plays on the evening, and came in clicking at a 26% success rate. (Probability of a 26% power play going 0-for-5: 22% or so.) LA limited them to just two shots on goal during the first four, during which the Kings managed to set aside some anger over the penalty calls and lock down in their own zone. At the start of the third Marian Gaborik gave Detroit one more opportunity, and Quick made three saves. After that, Detroit only tested Quick four more times, and he closed out his 35th career shutout.
Detroit always brings a strong fan presence to Staples; it was wonderful not hearing them once tonight.