The Los Angeles Kings faced the Detroit Red Wings at home last night and looked to close the two game series between the clubs with a home win for each. After a furious power play start for the Red Wings, the Kings began to grab hold of the game and were undeterred despite two quick goals from the men in red.
We've been talking a lot of Anze Kopitar in recaps recently, and for good reason. He earned his second four point effort in the past two months. Kopitar has come alive these past couple months and at just past halfway in the season, has taken over sole points lead for the Kings at 35 points. He scored once and assisted on every other goal for the Kings. He's pretty good.
It was also an interesting lineup night for the Kings. The defense was structured as it has been since Luke Schenn's arrival, but the forward group was without both Andy Andreoff and Jordan Nolan for the first time this season. The resultant bottom two lines featured Dwight King, Vincent Lecavalier, and Trevor Lewis together as well as Michael Mersch, Nick Shore, and Dustin Brown forming a line. It's hard to really say who the fourth line is there as scoring potential is present in both. That's a good feeling.
To kick this game off, Anze Kopitar cleverly took a two minute tripping penalty just 30 seconds in. I say cleverly because it was clearly all to setup the 2-on-1 breakaway chance that gave Tyler Toffoli one of the easiest tap-ins of his life. Toffoli now sits at 20 goals in just over half the games played this season. He's on pace for well over 30 goals, and the Kings haven't had a 30 goal scorer since Kopitar did it in 2009-2010. Let's enjoy Toffoli at 3.5M AAV while we can.
Kopitar was only getting warmed up. Late in the second, he was able to tie it almost directly off a faceoff win on the power play. After a faceoff win the puck came to Jake Muzzin who tapped it back to Kopitar. Kopitar had room to skate in from the outside of the left circle and buried his shot thanks to a textbook screen by Milan Lucic, who certainly earned his assist on the goal.
The Kings found themselves on the power play again early in the third. This time, Kopitar was able to re-enter the zone under pressure while his teammates changed. The concentration of Red Wings players opened up the other side of the ice and two passes found Alec Martinez with a clear view of the net. The goal gave the Kings their second lead of the night, which they would never relinquish.
The final tally for the Kings was of the open net variety. Some nice board work by Kopitar allowed the puck to be freed to Trevor Lewis and eventually to Dwight King. King used his large frame to muscle forward with the puck for an easy goal at the other end.
Although Kopitar was the star of the game, his line in general was excellent and generated a lot of scoring chances against the Red Wings. We could easily be talking about Toffoli's second hat trick based on his chances in the first period alone. It's also good to see Milan Lucic finally fitting in with Kopitar, and now the Kings have some flexibility in their top six as well as their bottom six.
As for Luke Schenn, physicality is probably over-emphasized a lot, but he used his strength on multiple occasions to separate a Red Wing from the puck. That's not something we'd be talking about with Jamie McBain, and it certainly gives Christian Ehrhoff a more clear role while on the ice. It's also allowed Drew Doughty to have more pedestrian ice times. It still feels kind of weird to say he only played 26 minutes, but it's nice to see that spread out again finally.
This felt like a solid Kings win, and hey, we even correctly predicted the score with the empty net clincher!