Tonight, the Los Angeles Kings came back to defeat the Anaheim Ducks, 4-3, in a contest where both sets of fans fluctuated wildly between “How have we not lost this game?” and “How are we not winning this game?” at various points.
I’m already hearing proclamations that this was the best NHL game of the season so far, so a traditional recap simply won’t do. Instead, I’m going to count down the wildest moments from tonight’s game at the Honda Center. I do not yet know how many moments I am going to list. There were many.
(Editor’s note: I ended up at eighteen. Could’ve kept going.)
18: Adrian Kempe makes Chris Wagner bleed off a faceoff.
Not wild. Kempe takes stick penalties, and Wagner had a rough go of things today. (Amazingly, given the Ducks’ injury luck, he was all right.)
17: Andy Andreoff makes Chris Wagner crash into the boards after he hits Trevor Lewis.
Also not wild, especially since Andreoff was extremely involved today. What can I say? His teammates like him and he’s certainly active..
16: Josh Manson cross-checks Dustin Brown in the face.
Still not wild, although given that this was a potentially crucial penalty with just over two minutes to go, the timing was strange. I’m putting it here because (1) we’ve now established a theme for how this game went and (2) it was very suspenseful wondering when Brown was going to get cross-checked in the face for 57 minutes, so I’d like you to know about it now.
15: Alec Martinez gets drilled, leaves, comes back.
Martinez took a heavy hit along the boards and stayed there, gently swinging himself over and hobbling into the tunnel. He only missed a couple shifts, but oof, it hurt on the replay.
14: Anze Kopitar enters concussion protocol.
Kopitar got upended by Brandon Montour in the third period and landed on his, uh, upper body. He came back too, though there was a little more suspense as it took a few more shifts for him to be evaluated for trauma.
13: Anze Kopitar scores a beautiful goal.
This was a lot earlier, and I guess it isn’t wild at all! Maybe it’s just for the context, because the Ducks were 100% in control up to this point. Also, it was really sweet.
12: The Kings go tic-tac-toe after a horrid too-many-men penalty.
Before taking a cross-check to the face, Dustin Brown tied things at 3 in the third period. He, Kopitar, and Alex Iafallo went out together after the Ducks miscommunicated on a line change and ended up with six guys far away from the bench, and they immediately connected on a nifty PPG. This was only wild because LA had killed approximately 800 minutes of penalties before this, and had also looked dreadful on earlier power plays.
11: Kurtis MacDermid gets ejected after a late hit on Ondrej Kase
A player gets sent off and it’s only at #11 on our list? Well, if it’s Kurtis MacDermid, it isn’t all that crazy; he was suspended 12 games in the AHL for a bad hit on a San Diego Gull. This one was nowhere near as bad as that particular incident, but MacDermid was quite late on hitting Kase as he entered the zone after passing the puck. MacDermid has shown a tendency towards tone-setting plays, and this time it cost him the game. (It also cost Kase the game; he struggled to get up and skate off, and he did not return.)
10: LA kills a five-minute major only to give up a goal one second later.
Like we said, the Kings did some tough PK work, and managed to survive that MacDermid penalty. So what happened when Jake Muzzin had the puck behind his own net as the penalty was set to expire? He passed it to Tanner Pearson, but the puck bounced off Pearson’s skate and went to Sami Vatanen. Vatanen went high on Jonathan Quick and beat him to make it 2-0 in the first. (Kopitar’s goal had made it 2-1.)
9: Pearson makes a spinning pass to Kempe for a McFlurry Minute goal.
Pearson, Kempe, and Tyler Toffoli struggled mightily for two periods, failing to generate chances and struggling to control the puck. So it was unexpected, if not entirely shocking, when the three turned this game around at the end of the second. Toffoli’s pass to Pearson in the slot actually did again elude Pearson for a minute, but he made a heads up play, backhanding a pass to Kempe and away from the Ducks defense. Kempe beat a sprawling John Gibson to make it 3-2 at intermission.
8: Andreoff fights Jared Boll and it lasts about two seconds.
The fight occurring at all wasn’t bizarre. In fact, it was the least bizarre thing that happened tonight.
Congratulations to us, for nailing the world's easiest prediction before this game started. pic.twitter.com/NA5LD9DWHd— Jewels from the (@JFTC_Kings) November 8, 2017
Rather than the usual spin-and-struggle bout, though, Andreoff and Boll made it quick, as Andreoff managed to punch Boll before his ungloved hands could get back up to his face. The fight was over in three seconds. Efficient!
7: LA gets burned on an offside challenge.
I wasn’t too worried when Brown’s apparent second goal of the game was challenged, because it seems like offside challenges have to be totally cut-and-dry to work, and could such a lovely go-ahead goal possibly be disallowed? Martinez AND Doughty jumped up and made perfect passes! Then I watched the replay.
It wasn’t close. Great passing, though.
6: Ryan Miller, coming in cold, stones Tyler Toffoli on a potential game-winner.
Miller wasn’t expecting to play tonight, but John Gibson left the game with just under seven minutes to go and the score tied. It was a rough situation, even for a veteran, and Miller did pretty well in stopping the first nine shots he faced. One of them was a legitimately remarkable stop on Toffoli as the Ducks killed that Manson cross-check, and it salvaged a point for Anaheim.
Som why was Miller in?
5: Brooks Laich has a goal disallowed and sends Gibson into concussion protocol on the same play.
So, a lot happened here. With Kopitar being evaluated, Brooks Laich got a shift with Iafallo and Brown and almost cashed in. Iafallo set up a blistering Brown shot, which hit Gibson in the mask and bounced down. Laich knocked it in a split-second after Gibson’s mask came off, nullifying the goal. It’s a moot point now, but it was strange to see the whistle go so quickly considering this was mid-scoring opportunity. Of bigger concern, though, was that Laich’s stick caught Gibson in the head in the immediate aftermath, sending Gibson to the locker room.
4: Boll scores a goal.
In a normal game, this would come in at #1, because Boll hadn’t scored in an NHL game since March 2016. Brandon Montour drew Quick out of his net and brought the puck around, but it was Boll who cashed in for the game’s first goal. Stunner.
3: Quick vs. Perry, Part 1.
Corey Perry pushed Derek Forbort in the crease and the defenseman caught Quick as he fell, and Quick got ornery very quickly. After some shoving, he and Perry stood up and kinda-sorta attempted to scuffle, but except for one mild gloved punch from Quick, you couldn’t call it a fight. Too bad, because if it was one, Quick would’ve had 2⁄3 of a Gordie Howe hat trick tonight. This ramped everything up for the rest of the game, and it was especially telling when the two connected again.
2: Quick vs. Perry, Part 2.
Perry, again, was shoving and being shoved near the crease near the end of the second period. This time it was Oscar Fantenberg. Perry stepped on Quick’s pad in the midst of it, sending a staggering Quick toward the ice. Quick then had to deal with a slapper from Rickard Rakell, and clearly affected, he couldn’t get his glove up in time. The Kings’ challenge didn’t pan out, either because Fantenberg was ruled to have helped initiate the contact or because a couple seconds passed before the goal, or because it simply wasn’t anything conclusive. Either way, I was stunned that beyond a subtle shove on Nick Ritchie on the following shift, no more headlines were made by Quick. He did stop everything from that point on, to his credit.
(One bonus Andreoff note! Shortly after this, he attached himself to a Duck near the blue line and attempted to take him into Gibson as a revenge maneuver. Unfortunately, he kind of ran out of steam and they slid to a stop harmlessly in the crease. That was funnier before Gibson got injured.)
1: Nick Shore wins it in overtime.
I know I said it was only the sixth-wildest thing that happened, but I had to finish with this.
So how do you end a game with this much going on? With a play that hadn’t even been hinted at by the previous 63 minutes. Quick’s assist came here, but it was Brown and Shore who did the work on a 2-on-1. Shore flicked an absolutely perfect wrist shot over Miller’s shoulder, providing an appropriately unexpected ending to one of the most eventful regular season games I can remember.