In spite of their wading towards the bottom of the standings the last few seasons, the Arizona Coyotes have a way of making things interesting against the Los Angeles Kings.
Tonight only took a matter of seconds, as an Alec Martinez turnover after the opening face-off forced Tyler Toffoli into a tripping penalty, his first trip to the box this season. In what seemed like a second later, Martin Hanzal tipped a shot off the short wall to put Arizona up, 1-0.
Toffoli apparently has no interest in infringing upon Anze Kopitar's Lady Byng, as he inexplicably takes another tripping penalty just a few seconds later, really putting his team on their heels. A successful penalty kill allowed the Kings to finally set their game in motion and take control of play. A nifty tip by Martinez to strip the puck from Christian Dvorak sprung the Kings on an out-numbered attack, with Dwight King finishing off a textbook triangle play.
King just taps it past Smith to get the #LAKings on the board. pic.twitter.com/h9XgiJ93Io— #LAKings (@LAKings) December 2, 2016
This being the Kings, nothing can come easy. With Nick Shore sitting in the box, Hanzal again went to work, flinging a stoppable puck towards Budaj, bouncing off his stick and into the net, sending the Kings to the locker room with a one goal deficit after one period. After 21 consecutive games, this second game of a back-to-back seemed to have been the perfect time to give Budaj a rest. It did not take long for Darryl Sutter to regret his pre-game decision. After stopping only four of six shots in the first period, it was clear Budaj would not be coming out to start the second period.
Jeff Zatkoff got into only his fifth game this season, his first since re-injuring himself against Ottawa on November 11. He was immediately tested, getting peppered with pucks as Arizona quickly closed the shot gap, including a goal that was disallowed after he was run over in his crease. The Kings looked disjointed and tired most of the period, needing something to bounce their way. A dirty goal from the fourth line usually does the trick, but this was pretty nice, too:
What a goal by Nolan #LAKings pic.twitter.com/3n7Ci8DZN0— #LAKings (@LAKings) December 2, 2016
Jordan Nolan's first goal since April of 2015 sent the Kings into the third period with some hope. With neither team generating many quality scoring chances in the third, Nolan goes back to work, this time capitalizing on a vintage Mike Smith moment:
Nolan banks it off Smith to get his second goal of the night! #LAKings pic.twitter.com/Ocxx1QsvPQ— #LAKings (@LAKings) December 2, 2016
While luck was certainly on his side this time around, it was Nolan who had gained the zone with Oliver Ekman-Larsson bearing down on him, having enough presence of mind after getting back on his skates to fire the puck behind a hapless Smith. The Kings did not get very long to celebrate, however, as Tobias Rieder was rewarded for cherry-picking following the ensuing face-off, getting in behind Doughty and lifting a back-hander past Zatkoff.
With this having the makings of "one of those games," yet other role player chipped in to put the Kings on top for good. This time it was perennial unsung-hero Trevor Lewis who was the beneficiary of a Kopitar assist, burying a tasty rebound past Smith. This was not simply a case of Lewis being in the right place at the right time, however, as he made a nice play to enter the zone under control before getting the puck to Kopitar, who fed Marian Gaborik for a point-blank shot that set up the game-winner for Lewis.
Speaking of Gaborik, this was probably his best game since returning from injury. Getting bumped up to Kopitar's left wing, he led all Kings with 6 shots on goal, moving well and drawing a penalty in the process. Drew Doughty played like a man possessed, leading all skaters in ice time, spinning off defenders and firing off what seemed like an endless stream of one-timers.
Following yet another disappointing showing on Rivalry Night, the Kings badly needed a bounce-back in this game against the lowly Coyotes. It was also encouraging to see Zatkoff get into this game and earn his first win of the season. Going back to his last start against Ottawa, he has turned aside 43 of 44 shots faced over three periods, building some confidence after a rough start to the season.
The Kings are 6-3-1 over their last ten games, a point behind Edmonton and Anaheim for third in the Pacific. They get to enjoy a couple of days off before returning home on Sunday for an afternoon tilt against the Canadians.