After giving up six goals in a loss to the Dallas Stars on January 9—many of the goals resulting from uncharacteristic Kings mistakes with puck control—the Kings established their defensive and possession play tonight against the St. Louis Blues in a dominant 5-1 win.
The usual suspects contributed. Tanner Pearson scored two goals and Jeff Carter scored two assists. But the opening goal was scored by Jake Muzzin. After a streak of seemingly sluggish play over the last several games, Muzzin came alive and slapped in two goals tonight. Here’s the first one:
Notable is how Dustin Brown blinded goaltender Jake Allen with his presence in front of the net, moving right as Allen moved right.
The Kings were due for a scoresheet contribution from Trevor Lewis, who scored the Kings’ second goal, his first in 15 games. Lewis lulled defender Alex Pietrangelo to sleep by slowing down along the left wing. Meanwhile Anze Kopitar rushed the net with a hapless, stickless Scottie Upshall unable to defend. Goaltender Allen was caught undecided as Lewis’ shot deflected in for a 2-0 lead.
A perfect backhand pass from Alec Martinez under pressure started a Kopitar-Marian Gaborik-Muzzin breakout. (Martinez has been excellent with backhand passing lately.) Muzzin scored his second goal of the game:
That was it for Allen as Carter Hutton entered the game in relief. But it didn’t matter, as Hutton could not stop the first shot on goal he faced, a Pearson slap shot assisted by Brown:
After a Toronto review (kicking motion) and a coach’s challenge (goaltender interference) could not overrule Paul Stastny’s goal (for you lawyers out there, it felt like the Kings spent several minutes exhausting their administrative remedies), Pearson’s second goal put the game out of reach.
The Blues never threatened in the third period. St. Louis, after an unenergetic first period, started the second period well with a sense of urgency and bursts of sustained pressure. But after two periods, the Blues only managed eight shots on goal.
After the Nashville Predators defeated the Boston Bruins 2-1 earlier tonight, the Kings needed a win to hold on to the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Kings did just that. They have 46 points, trailing the Calgary Flames who have the first wild card spot (48 points), and the Edmonton Oilers who are third in the Pacific Division (51 points).
The Kings next face the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, January 14.