Most would admit that this looked like an easy game on paper. The Canucks, depleted by injuries and not being very good before that anyway, are a team that the Kings have managed to struggle with this year anyway. The Canucks, to their credit, entered the game on a hot streak after downing both the Ducks and Sharks in their two previous games. The California sweep hasn't been an easy thing to do for several years now, but the Canucks did just that.
The game had only begun when consistent zone pressure from the Jeff Carter line left a glorious rebound for Tyler Toffoli to dunk in for his 30th goal of the year. The tally makes him the first Kings 30 goal scorer since 2009-2010 when, guess who, Anze Kopitar did it with 34 goals. Following the goal, no one apparently went to retrieve the puck, which greatly distresses me. Still, Toffoli is working out to the top of our expectations, and one more year of a 3.25M bridge deal looks pretty tasty right now before pay day hits.
Through the first period, the Kings looked to be cruising to an easy win. The Kings out-attempted the Canucks 23 to 9 at even strength and didn't allow a single scoring chance at even play. Jamie McBain made an entrance for the banged up Alec Martinez for the first time in holy-crap-I-forgot-he-was-on-the-team games. Both he and Jake Muzzin were facilitating some great zone exits with zippy tape to tape passes at either blue line to keep things chugging along for the Kings. Then, things got kinda ugly. The Canucks mostly played the Kings to even in the second period, but they got two more of their four consecutive power plays going back to the first period.
The second whistle against the Kings in the second period had the unfortunate timing of also being during a penalty kill. The 5-on-3 man advantage was simply too much for the Kings to handle, and they couldn't get in the way of a back door pass for an easy goal. The Canucks finally seized hold of the game when Jared McCann took advantage of a flubbed pass by Dustin Brown and scored on the breakaway. This was after Tyler Toffoli had failed to convert on his own breakaway in the first period when he never could get the right handle on a rolling puck.
Once the third period rolled around, the Kings clearly understood their situation but just could never convert. Through 16 minutes of even play, 2 minutes of power play time, and 2 minutes of 4 on 4 play (along with a measly 20 seconds of open net play), the Kings fired 20 shots at Ryan Miller. Miller was downright frustrating for the Kings as even net front traffic couldn't generate the appropriate screens or rebounds for a chance to cash in. After Andy Andreoff's feed to Kyle Clifford made him look a little silly in the second period, he was by far the best player on the ice for either team.
Cliff-driving pic.twitter.com/BDUAgs8MX7— LA Kings (@LAKings) April 5, 2016
Believe it or not, this win was the first Canucks' 3 game win streak of the year. The fact that they did it against three very good California teams only to send their fans into a frenzy over blown lottery chances is certainly fun for the whole family. What isn't so great is that the Kings no longer control their own destiny in the Pacific Division. With a 1 point lead and a game in hand, winning out for the Kings, including a regulation defeat of the Ducks, wouldn't be enough if they win the rest of their games. Still, this looks to be a calculated outcome from Sutter - or at least a permitted one. Drew Doughty only played 24 minutes despite the game being constantly a one goal game. We've seen his time on ice continue to trend down, so the period of rest and experimentation from Sutter continues.
I hope you like playing the Sharks, because it looks like we're playing the Sharks. At least we get home ice (maybe), right?