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Avs @ Kings Recap: LA Clamps Down on Colorado, 3-1

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LA equals a franchise low by allowing just ten shots on goal, and LA capitalizes on just enough of their many chances to earn another two points.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In the third period, the Los Angeles Kings had a shift where they were absolutely exhausted and simply needed to get off the ice. What'd they do? Dustin Brown's line simply left the puck behind the Colorado Avalanche net and skated off.

You don't usually see teams hold the puck for so long that they force their own line change, but that's the kind of night it was at Staples Center.

[Box Score]

The Kings triumphed 3-1, with yet another dominant performance in yet another "must-win" game. How dominant? Here is a numbered list of all the shots on goal Colorado took in this game:

  1. 4:50, 1st Period: Jarome Iginla, Slap, Off. Zone, 51 ft.
  2. 12:23, 1st Period: Freddie Hamilton, Wrist, Off. Zone, 21 ft.
  3. 12:49, 1st Period: Cody McLeod, Wrist, Off. Zone, 57 ft.
  4. 1:12, 2nd Period: Ryan O'Reilly (GOAL), Wrist, Off. Zone, 6 ft.
  5. 7:53, 2nd Period: Matt Duchene, Wrist, Off. Zone, 18 ft.
  6. 19:25, 2nd Period: John Mitchell, Wrist, Off. Zone, 18 ft.
  7. 19:48, 2nd Period: Ryan O'Reilly, Wrist, Off. Zone, 41 ft.
  8. 1:09, 3rd Period: John Mitchell, Tip-In, Off. Zone, 15 ft.
  9. 1:44, 3rd Period: John Mitchell, Wrist, Off. Zone, 49 ft.
  10. 19:15, 3rd Period: Zach Redmond, Slap, Off. Zone, 55 ft.

The ten shots allowed tied a franchise record; it's the second time (January 11, 1994 against San Jose) that LA has limited their opponent to ten shots. The most amazing part, I think, is the latter stretch of the game. The Colorado Avalanche trailed 2-1 for the first eighteen minutes of the third period; for sixteen of those minutes, they couldn't muster a shot on Jonathan Quick. That's largely a credit to the defense, who blocked nearly half of Colorado's shot attempts on the evening (15 of 32). And as hilarious as it is that Robyn Regehr now has his own Star of the Game intro... "The third star, with another strong game on the back end..." he also was last night's possession king, and picked up two assists for his troubles.

What about scoring? Semyon Varlamov wasn't necessarily bad last night, but he spent the first half of the game giving up rebounds. Dwight King cashed in on one of the bigger ones in the first period, back when LA was merely dictating the pace and not dominating. It started with Jeff Carter, who Jim Fox compared to a running back in football hitting the hole... see if you can pinpoint the moment that Colorado's defense realizes the problem.

Carter Finds a Hole

Varlamov made the initial stop, but with both defensemen freaking out and chasing Carter, King was wide open to convert the rebound. Shots were just 4-3 in favor of LA when Carter broke in; the Kings ramped it up from there, and a number of Kings (Carter and Anze Kopitar in particular) nearly increased the lead several times in the ensuing minutes. 1:12 into the second, the Avalanche got a fluke goal when the puck popped out of Jonathan Quick's glove on a routine shot, but O'Reilly's marker was the only blemish on LA's record.

It took Alec Martinez about nine minutes to get the goal back on not one, but two, excellent finishes. Aside from the fourth line (which, in fairness, had a couple of great shifts), the Kings' forwards then got their cycle on, leading to a few unprompted applause breaks from the crowd throughout the game when the pressure got especially consistent. (Side note: one of my favorite things about the Kings' success and change in style over the last five years? Watching the crowd increase their appreciation and reaction to strong cycles or long spans of possession. We don't just cheer for goals and saves anymore!)

There were still plenty of chances for Kopitar and Co. to extend the lead...

... but it took a beauty of a shot  by Marian Gaborik to seal the deal. Patrick Roy is perhaps the NHL's most aggressive coach when it comes to pulling the goaltender, but with Colorado struggling to get things going, he didn't see a window until the two-minute mark. Varlamov was on his way out when Regehr gloved down an attempted dump-in by the Avs, forcing Varlamov to hurriedly retreat to his net. That might explain his helplessness in the face of this:

For Colorado, who had been eliminated just before the start of this one, the loss was simply icing on the cake. For LA, it was crucial: it puts the team back in a wild-card spot, and in control of their own destiny. In fact, winning out would do what was unthinkable a few weeks back: it would give LA home-ice in the first round. For now, I'm okay with a simple playoff spot. So we're happy...

... but not too happy.