Going into Game 82, the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks didn't have much at stake, an unfamiliar spot for both teams. I had no idea what to expect walking through the doors of the Staples Center, but I shouldn't have been worried. Both the players and the fans brought it as LA used a strong third period to grab a 4-1 win.
The first question: how would the fans respond after LA's hugely disappointing Canada swing? The stands were emptier than usual when the teams took their warmups, but that was merely a symptom of the Saturday matinee. When The Black Parade made a triumphant return to the pregame montage and the Kings emerged? It still felt a few notches quieter, but nearly every fan stood up and applauded. Less cheers, more clapping, I suppose. From then on, it didn't feel like a playoff game or anything, but it didn't feel like a preseason game either.
The second question: who was playing their final game in a Los Angeles Kings uniform? Jordan Weal was a surprising scratch, having made the cross-country flight and participated in warmups only to don a suit and tie for the game itself. Mike Richards sat as well, so if the team has any intentions of buying out his contract, that eleven minutes Richards played against Calgary will be his last. I wouldn't bet on that, but I WOULD bet this was the last game in LA uniforms for both Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams, especially if the salary cap doesn't move this offseason. And as the proud owner of a Justin Williams jersey, that stings.
We are proud to announce that Justin Williams will always be the king of our hearts.— Jewels frm the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) April 11, 2015
(I could be wrong, though!)
I don't need to bet on whether it's Robyn Regehr's last game, though, as he announced his intentions to retire after this one. The LA media honored the contributions of these three by naming them the three stars of last night's contest, and thankfully, they played well enough to earn them. Williams and Stoll each picked up assists and were on the ice for two goals apiece, while Regehr had "another strong game on the back end" (TM) after his early interference penalty. The other pending UFA, Andrej Sekera, remains injured.
Right, the game, then.
Brent Burns scored on the post-Regehr-interference power play, off of a nice feed from Joe Pavelski. Jonathan Quick had no chance, but from there, he was perfect, capping off his season with 20 saves on 21 shots. He finishes with a .918 save percentage, his best since 2011-12 and the second-best of his career. Good, solid, above-average season despite his January struggles. It took 29 more minutes for LA to tie things up, when Tyler Toffoli crashed the net to poke a loose puck past Alex Stalock. The puck was only loose because of Andy Andreoff and Jarret Stoll, who got a shot through traffic and and moved it to the open side of the net, respectively. I never want to see that line combination in my life, but they did well there!
The Kings had already seized control of the play in general, but until Toffoli's goal, it never felt like LA was in danger of beating Stalock. After that? It just seemed like a matter of time until the Kings grabbed the lead. Brenden Dillon hooked Trevor Lewis to set up a third-period power play, on which - get this - LA didn't have a single shot blocked. Drew Doughty elected to pass rather than attempt another shot at the PP's end, and Brayden McNabb scored a (dare I say it?) Cammalleri-esque goal on the one-timer. Off the far post, down to one knee, and a lead for the Kings. Three minutes later, Williams and Jake Muzzin set up a gorgeous goal for Marian Gaborik:
And that was pretty much the dagger. Tyler Toffoli added his 49th point of the season with an empty net, but unexpectedly, it was an assist. With an open net in front of him, Toffoli instead set up Andreoff for his second goal of the season. The reaction by Andreoff was terrific: "Oh, you shouldn't have!" The crowd cheered to the end and stuck around to watch the Kings congratulate each other one more time, as Stoll grabbed the game puck for Regehr and Bailey sprinted onto the ice shirtless. (Hey, someone had to get his sweater in the jersey-off-the-back ceremony.)
So for the third time in four seasons, the Kings close out their season with a win. It wasn't the way anyone wanted it, but darn it, it was fun.