With Marian Gaborik injured and Anze Kopitar listed as day to day, the Kings came into tonight lacking even less offensive punch than usual. A Michael Mersch callup hoped to remedy some of that. Oh yeah, Jordan Nolan was listed as day to day as well.
The game in Nashville got off to a rough start for the Kings. The Predators are a team that are excellent at limiting opponent shots and scoring chances, and they're the number two possession team behind Los Angeles. All that being said, one might expect the Kings to get pelted when they're missing their number one center. It certainly looked like the Kings would be in for a long night when they were on their way to a final 1st period shot total of four to the Predators' twelve.
Fortune seemed to take pity on the Kings, however. Late in the first period a clean faceoff win by Nick Shore got Jake Muzzin the puck on the blueline. He weaved the puck along the blueline looking to freeze the defender and wait for the perfect traffic. It worked, as Trevor Lewis and Nick Shore created enough mayhem in front of the net to allow a shot to fly past Pekka Rinne.
Even with that fortunate turn of events, the main narrative of the opening period had to be penalties. The Kings took two roughing penalties needlessly and capped it off with a too many men penalty in the closing minutes. The third penalty was finally enough for the Predators to get the loose puck they needed in front of the net. Defenseman Ryan Ellis had the room and time to stick handle and put the puch past Jonathan Quick to tie the game going into the first intermission.
When the puck dropped for the second period, the Kings finally seemed to be getting a handle on the game as they were able to finally establish some forechecking, though true scoring chances remained few and far between. The game developed into what we might expect- displays of defensive prowess. From Drew Doughty's batting the puck out of mid air in the neutral zone to stop a 2 on 1, to Jake Muzzin's recovery to thwart the shooter after failing to stand up at the blueline, there was plenty of butt-clenching for Kings fans.
Indeed, a common theme of the game for the Kings was calm and focus on defense to face the shooter after a cross ice pass or rebound changed circumstances. They were almost always ready to offer a body or stick to challenge the Predators, and that coupled with a stellar performance by Quick are the reasons the Kings were able to hold the score even for so long. They would end up giving the Predators six man advantages in total, but doom never seemed to be imminent for the Kings.
The Kings didn't get their own powerplay until the final five minutes of the second period, and it was only then because of an odd play between Mersch and Barret Jackman that sent the defenseman helplessly into the boards. Thinking foul play, Mersch was assaulted and it gave the Kings the man advantage. It had to be a welcome relief for the Kings, who were finally able to spend some sustained time in the offensive zone, even if the powerplay didn't look as potent without Kopitar or Gaborik.
The teams road the stalemate right into the closing minutes of the third, when the Kings were finally able to string some shifts together with possession, only to have Milan Lucic take a needless holding penalty to put them on the kill again. But hey, no sweat, and the Kings killed off the sixth and final powerplay with ease. This sent the Kings into overtime for the third time on this road trip.
Overtime began extremely cautiously after the Predators' faceoff win. Their poor record in OT has probably changed their strategy, and it shows. In fact, the overtime was rather dull for an overtime until Tanner Pearson entered the zone along with his linemates. He swung out through the back of the zone and let the defenders shift until he got the shot he wanted. It only took one, and his second goal of the road trip was yet another overtime game winner.
It was a great result for a beleaguered trip, and the Kings finished it with three out of a possible four points. They remain in first in the division outright and get to return to more familiar territory. Let's hope we see Anze's familiar face again soon too.