Oh boy this game was surely something between the Carolina Hurricanes and LA Kings on Star Wars Night. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Star Wars so uh the puns will be few and far between. Sorry to disappoint anyone looking forward to a fun play on words featuring a handsome, plucky young man (Tyler Toffoli), his slightly older, grouchy friend (Jonathan Quick) and said friend’s pet/space companion (Drew Doughty) and a kick-ass princess (not applicable—no one on this team is as cool as Leia) as well as a slew of fun, interesting, supporting characters, including a wise mentor (Anze Kopitar).
The Canes controlled the run of play pretty much the entire game. The first 10 minutes were close but after that, Carolina’s forecheck stymied LA’s zone exits and made life in general difficult for them. An interesting thing about this game, though, is that even though the Canes were getting off more shots and corsi events, they didn’t get many chances, which is a credit to the Kings’ defense. Overall, Los Angeles gave up 27 chances, only 8 of which Nat Stat Trick considered “high danger” (consider this: the Winnipeg Jets racked up a whopping 39 chances on Nov. 22). On the flip side, the Kings scarcely managed 17 chances and two high danger chances for.
Postgame, Head Coach John Stevens cited fatigue as a factor in his team’s sluggish game and boy, did the Kings look it.
Remember all those games where Kings would dominate both in territory and shots but couldn’t buy a goal? It’s like that except reverse. The Kings scored twice off the rush, off very fortunate turnovers.
On the first goal, Kopitar poked the puck away from an entering opposing player and carried the puck into LA’s offensive zone. This came around the same time that Jordan Staal and Toffoli collided at center ice with no call. Fans and Kings players alike wanted a call but the referee indicated that it was incidental contact. However, mere seconds later Toffoli got his revenge when he scored his 14th goal of the season. Kopitar, recognizing that his new linemate was the last man in and completely unmarked, sent him a sweet little saucer pass. Staal ended up tipping the puck, and with lots of traffic in front, Scott Darling couldn’t see anything. The tip forced Toffoli to take an extra second before scoring but the hands of a pure goal scorer would not be denied.
Locked in the leading goal scorer battle with his young protege, Kopitar scored his 16th of the season less than three minutes later (this, by the way, was after a pretty decent chance from Nick Shore and Dustin Brown). This time, it was Toffoli who set up his (other) dad and Kopitar’s tip beat Darling 5-hole.
In the third period, the Kings took three penalties, one of which was in the offensive zone. The Canes scored on man-advantage while Torrey Mitchell was in the box for tripping Justin Faulk. Shore had the opportunity to clear but couldn’t quite get it all the way out and Teuvo Teravainen hit Victor Rask with a beauty of a cross-ice pass whose one-timer found a seam of daylight over Quick’s left shoulder.
Later, with just about two and a half minutes left in the game, Carolina Coach Bill Peters pulled Darling for the extra attacker. Fatigued and already hanging on by a thread, the 6v5 worked in the Canes’ favor as Elias Lindholm tied the game on a delayed Kings penalty.
Speaking of hanging by a thread, that overtime was a mess for the guys in black. Kopitar, Toffoli, and Doughty got caught for nearly three minutes in their own zone, unable to clear the puck long enough for fresh bodies to hit the ice. How Carolina didn’t score is a mystery.
Desperate-looking pokecheck by Quick, but it's a good read of situation, #GoKingsGo 3 had been on the ice forever. Canes changed their 3 THREE times against one LA unit— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) December 10, 2017
Literally the worst 3v3 ever by #GoKingsGo, and yet they won lol. Kopitar was pinned in DZ for almost 3 minutes (CAR changed 3 times), then Muzzin & Shore both had to leave OZ to re-start attack because CAR was giving up nothing— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) December 10, 2017
That shift was SO BAD that former Jewels from the Crown writer Sheng Peng emphasized twice that Carolina had a full scale (well it’s only 3v3, but still) line change THREE TIMES.
As luck would have it, Kings end up winning anyway. Tanner Pearson, off the bench, streaked into the offensive zone, shot on goal, then potted his own rebound. Quick and Muzzin got the apples on the goal.
Speaking of Quick, somehow the media decided he should only be the second star of the game. These things are silly and meaningless (unless you’re in Anaheim and they... do... something... Some kind of point system? Whatever), but Pearson got all the glory as the game winning scorer. However, the Kings would not have even a sniff of a chance at OT if not for Quick. He made several highlight reel saves, some of which he appeared to be down and out but somehow still made the save (because he’s Jonathan Quick and insanely good at his job, naysayers be damned). He even denied our old friend Justin Williams (still miss you, boo) with a flair.
Quick was truly excellent in tracking pucks all night long. Aside from the power play goals, he rarely looked surprised to see where a shot was coming from. There were a lot of second and third opportunities, but he was (mostly) calm and stayed as big as he could, never giving up on a play. He’s definitely been the backbone this team has needed all season long. Hopefully he can continue his marvelous run of play.
Next up: The Kings hit the road for a four-game swing through the New York metropolitan area and Philadelphia. The New Jersey Devils are riding high on their own beliefs and successes so far. Who will come out on top should make for a very entertaining game.