After the Anaheim Ducks put added pressure on the Los Angeles Kings by overcoming a three-goal third-period deficit on Saturday afternoon, it was even more essential that LA not lose their own leads against the Edmonton Oilers. As it turned out, they got their own three-goal lead and held it... barely.
The recap has to start and end with the line of Milan Lucic, Jeff Carter, and Tyler Toffoli. All three have spent varying amounts of time with Anze Kopitar, the one guy who's really been able to score consistently throughout the 2015-16 season, but they've also spent a significant amount of time together as a trio. (According to Left Wing Lock, it's the most frequently deployed line combination for LA this year.) However, since Marian Gaborik's injury, they've rarely been the "second line" of choice. The concern, I imagine, is that a line of Pearson-Kopitar-Brown might not provide reliable scoring. After this one, the jury is still out on that, but they stepped up.
And not just because they combined for eleven points! Against two dangerous Edmonton lines -- and everyone else -- they wreaked havoc from a possession standpoint along with a scoring standpoint. Check out the matchups below from Micah Blake McCurdy; a larger square means more time spent against that player, while more blue means that the LA player had a greater share of the shot attempts while the two were on the ice together.
You can see that 17-77-73 were on top no matter who they were iced against; for the sake of comparison, the other big line for LA had a little trouble with Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl, and Nail Yakupov. And it showed when the three got on the board 16 seconds in, as Toffoli got position in front, tipped Brayden McNabb's point shot, and knocked in the subsequent rebound. That lead lasted all of 22 seconds and eventually turned into a deficit, but Carter tied it up 27 seconds later thanks to a missed goaltender interference. Lucic took out Laurent Brossoit, who had enough trouble when he was upright, and Carter capitalized from a tight angle. (The subsequent challenge was futile, as the interference occurred on the initial shot and not the goal-scoring one. Unfair, but LA didn't mind.)
In the second, Toffoli broke in and scored off a feed from Lucic, and both Toffoli and Carter got assists when Andy Andreoff punched in a loose puck from the goalmouth. (He and Dowd both performed well in limited minutes tonight, leaving Nick Shore's return in doubt.) That should've been enough, especially after Trevor Lewis scored a shorthanded goal thanks to a misjudged puck play from Brossoit. But the Oilers charged; Patrick Maroon scored a PPG in the third, then got in between Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin to tap in a Connor McDavid feed to make it 5-4.
That was set up by McDavid taking the puck off Vincent Lecavalier, which was actually the second time the young man punked the old man; he had scored Edmonton's second goal by knocking the puck off Lecavalier's stick past Jonathan Quick.
What a goal by Lecavalier! https://t.co/cWT7jFY5M6— Jason Gold (@JayGold85) March 27, 2016
And if there's a major concern after this game, it's this: without Shore, Kris Versteeg, and Marian Gaborik, the third line got walloped by McDavid's line. Gaborik's return should ease this problem, but until then, top loading the offense results in some weakness down low.
As we promised, though, the recap ends with the line that earned all three stars, and Toffoli broke up a final Edmonton effort to tie the game before setting up Carter's empty-netter. Carter wanted to get it back to Toffoli, but I'd take the sure goal to ice it too.