The Canucks are not a good team. Let's go ahead and get that out of the way. They are especially not good when their number one center Henrik Sedin is not available for the game, which is on top of the defensive injuries they face. That being said, it took the Kings longer than they would like to admit to get a handle on this game. The Canucks may have delayed the inevitable, but this one finished much like we'd expect it to.
Darryl Sutter deployed an interesting arrangement of forwards to start this game. Jeff Carter lined up to the right of Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic. Sutter said this was to relieve the pressure of being a center man, but we all knew that was code for getting him some goals. Behind that were two youngsters out for a day with gramps. Many of us had looked forward to Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli being reunited, but we hadn't expected they would be tied at the ankle by Vincent Lecavalier. Trevor Lewis was also returned to the familiar center position with Dwight King and Dustin Brown on his wings. This left usual fourth liner Kyle Clifford with Nick Shore. Kris Versteeg handled duties on the right side of this line, which is what I'm sure he had in mind when traded from the Hurricanes after handling first and second line duties there.
This game got off to a rather sloppy start. The Kings were able to break out of the defensive zone rather routinely, but just couldn't piece together passes through the neutral zone and offensive zone. When they couldn't break out of the zone, it wasn't simply pressuring forecheckers tying up the puck. The Kings made several ill-advised passes that gave the Canucks open space when they stole an errant pass or flubbed puck handling. Fortunately, we were treated to one of Jonathan Quick's good nights, and they entered the first intermission scoreless.
The ice opened up a bit early in the second following complimentary penalties from Jake Muzzin and Alexander Burrows. This gave the Kings some good looks early in the four on four time. Things turned south, however, when the Canucks got their chances. While in the offensive zone, the Canucks were able to get the puck to a net-crashing, and definitely not traded to anyone, Dan Hamhuis. Toffoli failed to get in front of his man and the Vancouver defenseman was able to get the puck over Quick's right pad. The bad news for the Kings and Quick stops here, thankfully.
Despite getting shelled early on, the top line managed to string together a set of glorious chances in their effort to tie it up. Several shots from right in front of the goalie culminated in scrambling defenseman and a downed goalie. Brayden McNabb pulled a drag move to get the puck clear and ready for a shot only to have his shot on an open net hit a defenseman. A similar situation would develop soon after with Drew Doughty in the place of McNabb. His shot trickled over Ryan Miller, and an overhead shot showed two sticks fighting for control over the puck as it gracefully slid over the line untouched.
The initial goal was truly the ice breaker for the Kings, and they scored inside two minutes later on the power play when a screened Miller never saw Kopitar pick to the top right corner of the net. Despite the go ahead goal, the Canucks did not collapse. They fought back, and the Kings have to thank Quick based on some of the chances they gave up over the next 20 minutes of time. That time, halfway into the third, was Jeff Carter's. He was able to enter the zone after winning the puck in the neutral zone, and his shot finally hit the mark. After a cathartic celebration, the Kings had their insurance goal, and a total of three on the scoreboard made it a rare game as of late.
The Kings weren't done, though. Less than a minute after the Carter goal, Vinny entered the zone on a partially contested break. The sight of an open lane to the goalie is apparently his catnip, as he amazingly skated with speed towards the net. One fake slapshot bought him some time for his eventual shot which caught the top edge of Miller's pad and fluttered over, sliding into the net. It felt like his first goal in a mortal's lifetime, but he celebrated as it were expected. Confidence is key, I suppose.
Despite the 4-1 score, the Canucks pulled their goalie late in the game. Thus ensued a game of cat and mouse where the Canucks tried to get the puck to the offensive zone and the Kings tried to get the puck to Jeff Carter. The latter finally happened when Milan Lucic was able to poke the puck free along the boards, which went straight to Carter. He was able to get his shot on the open net, and his second goal of the night. In the end, Jeff fired nine shots on goal to earn his two goals, the second of which was his 300th career goal. We are happy for you Jeff. We love you Jeff. Please go back to 2C Jeff.
All told, the night was somewhat of an expected score with a very unexpected path to get there. The Canucks certainly got a lot of good looks on Quick, and a first line centered by Linden Vey gave the Kopitar line way too much trouble. In fact, Kopitar's line ended up being the worst possession line of the night. There were a lot of sloppy elements to this game, but we can hope it was a lot of one-time only instances given the overall strength of the opponent. The Kings will have a lot to tighten up before facing the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.