(editor’s note: Readers, welcome another new writer to the site! This is J. James’ first article for Jewels from the Crown.]
One-fourth of the way into the season, the Kings found themselves in a game that featured playoff implications in a competitive Pacific. Before the game, the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers were tied for first with 21 points, followed by the Kings and San Jose Sharks with 19.
The Kings showed their mettle in the face of injuries to key players, defeating the Ducks 3-2 for their third win a row. Los Angeles is now in a three-way tie for first in the Pacific Division with Anaheim and Edmonton.
It was a tale of two games. After the Kings dominated play in the first two periods, outshooting the Ducks 26-13, Anaheim dominated play in a third period in which they outshot the Kings 17-3. The Kings took three penalties, desperately trying to disrupt the offense of the Ducks. After trailing 3-0 after two periods, Anaheim scored twice. At 3:34, Antoine Vermette deflected Hampus Lindholm’s point shot. Anaheim almost scored again at 6:54, but it was disallowed due to a blown whistle.
And at 8:36, Rickard Rakell scored from the high slot. Jakob Silfverberg caught a nifty cross-ice, thread-the-needle pass from Lindholm, who reached to keep the puck in the zone. Silfverberg approached the net and had three Kings focused on him, unaware that Rakell was open.
The Kings spent the third period unable to attack. Going ten minutes without a shot, they focused solely on trying to clear the puck out of the defensive zone, with mixed success. Derek Forbort’s tripping penalty at 18:07 of the third period gave the Ducks an opportunity to pull the goaltender for a two-man advantage. In the end, Ryan Kesler had an open net to the left of Peter Budaj but the puck went off Kesler’s stick, allowing the Kings to escape with victory.
Los Angeles, despite a tough third period, played beautifully in the first two periods. It was the second of back-to-back games, but the Kings did not lose their stride. Their short centering passes to clear the zone or start breakouts down the middle worked to perfection. Jeff Carter was the first star of the game with two goals and an assist. The slumping Kings power play, 28th in the NHL, came alive with two Carter power play goals 1:14 apart. The first goal—the 600th point of Carter’s NHL career— came from a perfectly executed breakout. Tyler Toffoli gained the zone from the left wing and passed it perfectly to Carter in front of the net, who blew by Cam Fowler. The second was a Drew Doughty point shot that bounced off of goalie John Gibson and into Carter’s chest. Carter slammed it home.
Doughty was excellent. He broke up a 3-on-1 chance by Anaheim, and scored the game’s first goal. As Korbinian Holzer went down on one knee, anticipating Doughty’s shot, Doughty then kept the puck and skated to his left to gain a better angle. It gave Toffoli time to stand right in front of Gibson’s face. Doughty then zinged a shot into the corner of the net. Gibson had no idea it was coming, and humorously raised his arms in frustration to complain about goaltender interference.
Derek Forbort’s game continues to improve. He was slated alongside Doughty for the first defensive pairing. Jordan Nolan and Jared Boll entertained the crowd with a dramatic fight in the first period. After locking arms for several seconds, Boll bloodied Nolan’s face with a right but Nolan freed his left arm afterward and swung at Boll twice, putting him off balance. Both teams tapped their sticks in applause.
Teddy Purcell, still struggling to find his way after injury, was silent offensively, and Jake Muzzin appeared relatively immobile in his defensive play.
The Kings are now 3-1-0 since Anze Kopitar’s injury and face the New York Islanders in Staples Center on November 23.