The Kings traded a conditional fifth round draft pick for journeyman forward Torrey Mitchell yesterday. In 617 games played, he has 141 points and 323 penalty minutes. Meh. However, this trade is an indication that the Kings are losing confidence in their support staff. That’s you, Nic Dowd, Jonny Brodzinski, Brooks Laich, Nick Shore, and Andy Andreoff. And perhaps even Adrian Kempe.
Marian Gaborik finally made his season debut after knee surgery, skating along Jussi Jokinen and Brodzinski. Considering his fragile health, it could indicate that the Kings are desperate for an offensive rejuvenation. Darcy Kuemper started in goal, after two consecutive shaky performances by Jonathan Quick.
The Kings started well and threatened on offense, but got nothing to show for their efforts.
After a couple of sharp Kuemper saves, a Shore penalty at 9:04 led to an Arizona power play goal by Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The wrist shot from the point had eyes. In the final minutes, the Coyotes almost scored again, as Derek Stepan hit the goal post.
A big hit on Alec Martinez a few feet away from the boards was scary, but Martinez was alright.
Three minutes in, the European combination of Gaborik and Anze Kopitar tied it up after a delayed penalty. Drew Doughty brought the puck back to center ice, slowly setting up the play. Kopitar caught the pass off his skate, and then tipped the shot of Gaborik to tie it up.
A centering pass down low by Arizona did not go through. Minutes later, Kempe got penalized for tugging the jersey of Clayton Keller, who is third in points among rookies. A rocket by Max Domi was launched wide of Kuemper.
With six minutes remaining, a flurry of chances by Gaborik and Jake Muzzin did not find the net. Muzzin had part of the net wide open after a rebound.
And four minutes later, a point shot by Alex Goligoski was deflected by Brendan Perlini for his seventh goal of the season. The shot turned into a changeup, and Kuemper could not react.
Even the Arizona announcers were admiring the workmanlike play of the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights. The relentlessly effective play of Vegas is the story of the season, and is perhaps unprecedented for a modern expansion team.
A jerk move by Arizona, shooting the puck at the buzzer, was met with indignation by the Kings. After two periods, the sustained pressure has proven elusive for the Kings, as Arizona outshot Los Angeles 22-14.
The Kings came alive. A chance by Alex Iafallo was disrupted by the stick of Niklas Hjalmarsson. Then after the Kings barely manage to hold the puck in the zone, Drew Doughty made a beautiful spin move and sent the puck in front of the net. After three whacks by Andy Andreoff, Trevor Lewis scored to tie the game for his third goal in four games. Andreoff is finally showing some worth, and Lewis is finally producing like the 17th overall pick he is, after eight seasons of single-digit goals. Los Angeles has finally returned to the style John Stevens wanted before the season—consistently attacking the net.
But Arizona responded. A shot from the circle by Tobias Rieder was saved by Kuemper. Then Doughty, in the heat of passion, cross-checked the ever-annoying Perlini in front of the net to let him know that the Kings will not go quietly. No penalty was called.
Then Kempe made a shrewd pass to Dustin Brown, who made a nifty back pass to Iafallo, but the sticks of Arizona once again disrupted the rookie’s shot. Los Angeles finally established waves of pressure, but Kopitar took a hooking penalty to prevent a partial breakaway.
The penalty was killed with precision. With 6:30 left, a long pass to Jordan Martinook connected, but Martinook was ridden out of the play.
With 4:38 remaining, Nick Shore won the faceoff and Wedgewood got a penalty for blatantly grabbing the stick of Shore. Fans could smell victory. The Kings dodged a bullet as Martinook stole the puck down low. After the penalty expired, the Kings tried to set up Gaborik who made the equivalent of a crossover dribble, but his shots did not connect.
In the final minute, a strange decision by Doughty, who took a long slapper, was intercepted for a precarious chance for Arizona, which was saved by Kuemper. Another Coyotes shot was blocked, but the rebound was picked up by Arizona for a one-timer at the buzzer by Stepan, who hit the post. Crazy.
The Kings played much better, but did not deliver. These are the cellar-dwelling Coyotes we’re talking about. It needs to be better than this.
Too much fanciness by Kopitar and Brown, and failure to change players in a timely manner, led to a Goligoski breakaway and too many odd-man rushes.
This was embarrassing, a royal failure. Gaborik played well in his return and made a visible difference. And Kuemper once again played solid. But the Kings failed to capitalize against the bottom-dwellers. It was only the second home victory for Arizona all season. To make matters worse, the Anaheim Ducks are next, followed by a four-game road trip against the Red Wings, Capitals, Blues and Blackhawks.
Even the overtime play has lost its mojo. The Kings, who have been dominant in 3-on-3 overtime in previous seasons, are a modest 3-3 this season in extra-session play.
In the post-game show, the reporters examined whether the Kings are now in a crisis. Jim Fox commented that Kings players told him they are second-guessing themselves and forcing the play too much. I contend that they have simply abandoned the style that yielded them success in the first 15 games. No more creativity or driving to the net. Perhaps due to the need to protect the young players, they brought back the cycling game of yesteryear which increases possession and shot totals, but also increases the distance those shots are taken from. Jarret Stoll commented the loss of Jeff Carter is taking its toll. It definitely is. Depth scoring has taken a nose dive, and once again Kempe, Shore, and Brodzinski were scoreless.