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Recap, Kings @ Penguins: A Stunning Shutout

For a variety of reasons.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult to overstate just how unlikely yesterday’s shutout win was for the Los Angeles Kings. Let’s run down all the reasons why in our recap of the Kings’ 1-0 win.

[Box Score]

  • Pittsburgh has been scoring like crazy lately. It had been eight games since the Penguins scored fewer than four goals in a game. It had been a month since they scored fewer than two goals. And the only time they were shut out this year was in Montreal, by Carey Price, two months ago, when they were without Sidney Crosby.
  • The Kings’ goaltender was Peter Budaj. A shutout would have been equally unlikely for Jeff Zatkoff, of course, but Budaj wasn’t at his best leading up to this one. He’d gone 14 starts without a shutout, and he’d given up multiple goals in 12 of those 14 games. In addition, he had yet to face more than 30 shots in a game this year. Maybe he enjoyed the chance to face a ton of shots for a change, but all night, Budaj was in a zone.
  • Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin got their looks. Crosby had a nine-game point streak coming into this one, and he hadn’t gone back-to-back games without a goal all season. He got four shots on goal, and Malkin had six of his own. LA did a really nice job controlling Crosby after some early chances, but still, anytime those two get ten shots on goal, you expect worse.
  • Going by “Expected Goals”, Pittsburgh easily could have had three or four. Expected goals (or xG) essentially measures the number of goals a team would expect to score given where their shots came from. Last night, the Penguins ended the night with a total of 3.7 expected goals. Malkin and Conor Sheary combined for 1.5. That shows that the Penguins were getting excellent chances.
  • The Kings had to kill off four Pittsburgh power plays. The Penguins’ top-ten power play was in good form last night, but Budaj was better, and the rest of the squad managed to avoid the failed clearing attempts that killed them on recent nights. LA’s defensive discipline didn’t extend to staying out of the box, but once on the PK, they were sharp.
  • It was Night Two of a back-to-back! All of the above excluded... you’d think a Kings team that was low on energy would be less likely to pitch a shutout. And you’d be right. The Penguins went at LA all night, but the Kings came up with a little extra in the third period and overtime.
  • The Kings’ top forwards were arguably outplayed by their bottom six... on offense, at least. Aside from Tyler Toffoli, who scored the eventual winner, the top six were quiet. The game’s best chance went to Kyle Clifford. He and Nick Shore tied for the best shot differential among LA forwards (+7). Even Jordan Nolan had a good night, except for that moment when he barreled over Matt Murray. On the other hand, Kopitar and Carter were busy taking on the lines of Crosby and Malkin, and though Kopitar had his flashiest defensive game of the season, that didn’t leave much at the other end.

And in spite of all that: one goal for, zero goals against. We’ll take it.