Since this is a day late, this will be short and sweet.
Things started off quickly for the Los Angeles Kings in this game. Tyler Toffoli got the scoring started two minutes in when he beat Carter Hutton off the rush. Tanner Pearson found the puck in his skates and got it to Nick Shore hanging out in the neutral zone. Shore made the simple play with a nice backhand pass to Toffoli, who had managed to sneak behind the St. Louis Blues’ defense. Toffoli out waited Hutton before scoring five-hole.
Locked in a battle for team-leading scorer, Anze Kopitar couldn’t allow Toffoli to have all the glory, even if it was for only four and a half minutes. Kopitar fed Alex Iafallo, who shot-for-the-rebound, and Kopitar was only too happy to clean up the garbage. On the broadcast, Jim Fox said Hutton would probably want to do a better job of controlling that rebound so it doesn’t pop back up into the middle but it’s doubtful that Kopitar honestly minded.
Jonny Brodzinski got called for hooking shortly after, but the Kings killed it, despite giving up three shots on goal. The last four minutes of the period ended quietly for both teams, both playing a chess match through the middle of the ice, as is rather typical of them when they meet.
Second periods of have not been LA’s best this season. Last time they were in the Gateway City, they basically melted down and looked awful. This time, they were much better and only surrendered one goal, this one on the power play after Derek Forbort had been whistled for interference.
Los Angeles did have a man advantage of their own. Iafallo was crashing the net and sharing the same first name apparently made Alexander Steen feel the need to hold the rookie from New York. They generated three shots of their own but weren’t able to beat Hutton. For a second it did appear as though Dustin Brown had scored into an empty net but the referees on the ice determined that Drew Doughty had bumped into the Blues’ goalie and thus set off a sequence where the netminder was unable to get back into position to make any saves. It was incidental contact so no penalty, but no goal either. It was a fair call, though. If the situation were reversed, Kings fans wouldn’t want that goal to count.
There was a terrifying moment that followed that sequence when Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakaway. Alec Martinez managed to get step on him and disrupted the play enough that Tarasenko was forced to go to his left. He still got a shot off because he’s an incredibly talented and dangerous player, but at least it wasn’t the best shot. Darcy Kuemper remained calm and got a piece of the shot with his blocker.
Later on in the period, Patrik Berglund scored on the power play on a deflection off a Colton Parayko shot. The Blues had been getting some pretty good shots to that point, so it was only a matter of time before one went in. Fortunately, they were perfect on all of their other penalty kills.
As time wound down, Adrian Kempe once again turned the game on its head. With just over a minute left before the break, Kempe entered the zone with speed. He scored on what should’ve been a harmless shot on a harmless play. Kempe used the defenseman as a screen and shot through his legs, thereby hindering Hutton from tracking the puck.
L.A at STL, 01 Dec— Hockey Viz (@HockeyViz) December 2, 2017
Tide, shots, matchups, and expected Points pic.twitter.com/5elC3Uj8IH
The Blues made an early push, aided by a Marian Gaborik high sticking penalty, but the Kings’ defense (and Kuemper) held steady. The opportunistic Kings once again took advantage of a lapse in defense. Pearson beat out two defenders to get his stick on the puck first and no one saw Toffoli coming down the middle. He tipped Pearson’s pass in to make it 4-1 with just over nine minutes left in the game.
Once again, Kuemper was outstanding. He has collected a point in every game he’s started this season. And apparently he’s channeling his inner Jonathan Quick.