May I make another announcement:
The Dodgers won Game 2 of the NLCS on a Justin Turner walk-off home run!
Okay here we go, the second of back-to-back home games.
Darcy Kuemper made his Kings debut. He is much more adept at handling the puck than Jonathan Quick.
Anze Kopitar scores! After an innocuous, slow breakout, a pass to Dustin Brown in front of the net deflected in for a 1-0 lead.
The Kings largely contained the play of the New York Islanders, and led 11-7 in shots. Islanders color commentator and Kings alum Butch Goring called the first period a “C-plus.”
Too much sustained pressure by the Islanders paid off, with shot after shot leading to a goal by Josh Bailey at 8:56. Kuemper made it worse for himself with a nonchalant giveaway, leading to more Islanders chances.
Fortuitously for the Kings, a Thomas Hickey penalty at 9:46 changed the momentum. The Kings established their power play setup, and a wrist shot by Jake Muzzin flew true. Butch Goring immediately cried for goalie interference by Tanner Pearson, but the Islanders did not challenge. Replay showed Pearson’s skates in the blue crease, but no noticeable physical contact.
Then Jeff Carter was penalized and the Islanders threatened with some dangerous chances against Kuemper. With 1:01 remaining in the period, Trevor Lewis was not satisfied with the puck cleared merely to center ice. Playing without a stick for most of the shift, he dove toward the puck to push it all the way down the Islanders zone! Smart penalty killing, and amazing effort to make the line change easier for his teammates! (Remember, the second period requires long changes by both teams.)
A juicy rebound for Dustin Brown was blocked by Adam Pelech. Another chance by Trevor Lewis all alone was saved by Jaroslav Halak. But inability to clear the zone forced Adrian Kempe to take a penalty. The third line trio of Kempe, Jonny Brodzinski, and Nic Dowd is still struggling and scoreless, five games into the season.
But who cares for now? Anze Kopitar cleanly intercepted an Islanders pass at the blue line, and waited for help. Drew Doughty jumped into the play for a 2-on-1, and slammed in the Kopitar pass for the Kings’ first shorthanded goal of the season. It was a textbook example of John Stevens’ new system, and focus on crashing the net. On NHLNetwork Radio after the game, Jim Fox said there was no hesitation in Doughty’s decision to join the play. The childlike, jubilant goal celebration of Doughty, that can only come from the heart of a man who does what he truly loves, was infectious indeed.
At the 14th minute, Christian Folin and Oscar Fantenberg double-covered Cal Clutterbuck, leaving Casey Cizikas to slip by for a wrap-around. He jammed in the second try to put the Islanders within one. The Islanders would not give up, and momentum seemed to shift their way. But with two minutes to go, the Islanders were caught by the backchecking of Doughty, allowing the Kings to clear. In the final twenty seconds, John Tavares had the puck all alone with an empty net to Kuemper’s left. But the stick of Jeff Carter deflected the shot—and preserved the win—for the Kings, who remain undefeated in regulation after five games.
The relief from fans fills the air, as they see in this season the renaissance of Kopitar (5 GP, 4 G, 4 A) and Dustin Brown (5 GP, 4 G, 3 A). Leaders are retaking control. Careers are resurrected. Players are having fun. Winnable games are won. And prayers are answered yes.
Los Angeles next faces the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, October 18.
Notes: Michael Cammalleri who? He was scratched again. Also, Islanders announcers called Jake Muzzin the best defender in this match. Muzzin disrupted several chances in front of the Kings net. Finally, is it just me, or does Alex Faust keep saying “Alex Martinez”?