We know these games very well. The Kings lob all kinds of shots and scoring chances at a bad team with a worse goalie, but struggle to find the back of the net. Then, on some harmless shot from the perimeter, the other team scores the goal that gives them the lead that they never relinquish.
We've seen this kind of game a lot over the past 5 or 6 seasons. It usually turns against the Kings on a Quick softie or a bad offensive zone penalty or a combination of both.
It wasn't like the Kings couldn't generate offense. Most egregiously, Kyle Clifford hit the crossbar when faced with a yawning cage from point blank.
After demolishing the Flames for the better part of the first half of the game, this game looked to be heading in the same direction. The Kings were pouring shots all over Flames netminder Joni Ortio, the Flames were playing dead, and both strategies were resulting in zero goals.
Then, randomly, Luke Schenn scored.
The play was harmless. The Kings rimmed the puck around the offensive zone, Schenn corralled it, shot it from the boards, and it went in (largely due to a Vinny Lecavalier screen in front). The play wasn't exactly exciting. It didn't scream "goal" by any means. It whispered it quietly, and the Kings - despite dominating - unexpectedly found themselves up by a goal.
Briefly, this alleviated concerns of this being another one of those games. Very briefly.
First, Jake Muzzin took a penalty. Then the Flames capitalized on a good bounce off the back of the goal. Then Jiri Hudler found Sean Monahan at the top of the crease. Finally, alllllllll of our concerns returned to the forefront of our minds.
The game immediately shifted back to the way it had gone for most of the night.
There was the Carter shot that bounced off a defender and the ice before Ortio made an impressive snag. There was the dipping Martinez shot from the point that Ortio once gloved without any sort of rebound or trouble. Then Lecavalier had the puck on his stick right in front of the net and pushed it wide of the net. All the while, there was frustration among Kings fans and announcers alike. Even Jim Fox commented on the "sick feeling" he had in his stomach.
Then the Kings had a power play, and fresh-from-a-brief-rest-Anze Kopitar tapped a freebie into an empty net. The Kings escaped the 2nd period (and another Flames power play) with a 2-1 lead. That lead carried a feeling of miraculous unbecoming of the 31-12 lead in shots they carried toward the end of the second.
Still, it didn't feel like the Kings were out of the woods. After all, a season ago, the Flames were our personal heartbreakers both in games and in the standings. It was easy to worry that a one-goal lead would not be enough.
Thankfully - and surprisingly - much of the third proceeded without incident. A Kings power play benevolently killed two minutes off the clock. Rather quietly, the game melted away.
Still, when the Flames pulled their goalie, it felt like they might come up with hockey's first two-goal play to upend the Kings in regulation. Fortunately, hockey's rules were not rewritten before our very eyes and the Kings escaped the Flames without making me cry for once.
I'm so used to justifying how well the Kings played despite losing following games like that one that I don't know what to put here. Score more goals next time, still, I guess? Make it less stressful! Please! We beg you!
The Kings take on Connor McDavid on Thursday, and here's to hoping that the Kings make this all considerably less tense for all of us.