It was a rocky month overall, but the Los Angeles Kings bookended January with wins over division rivals and vault into the first wild card spot.
The first 40 minutes of this game were rather ho-hum, not that you’d expect much from a Kings-Coyotes match-up. LA gave up a goal to Arizona first in the first period and seemed to struggle with getting shots on net. Or even towards the net. The breakout was pretty decent most of the game, but zone entries were shaky at best in the first. However, given the overall skill discrepancy between the two teams, the Kings found their legs and slowly started to take over this game. Sort of.
LA’s worst parts of the game almost always come in the middle frame. Both teams really played conservatively and aside from a super quick exchange of goals, there wasn’t much to write home about. A lengthy shift in the defensive zone didn’t immediately yield a goal, though it was nearly a comedy of errors. Brayden McNabb lost his stick so Kyle Clifford gave the defenseman his stick, the Kings were running around and somehow the Coyotes still didn’t score and eventually the gassed guys on the ice managed to get the puck out without icing. But then they gave up the goal on the very next shift after Peter Budaj attempted to glove a high shot and ended up batting it back into the slot where it bounced right to Ryan White.
Another late period goal given up by the Kings? Yeah, seems about right. In an almost comical twist, Jordan Nolan scored the equalizer just 25 seconds later.
The amount of hustle and skill and to beat out the impressive 18-year-old Jakob Chychrun is amazing. Nolan is having himself a heck of a season. He also seems to have taken a page out of former captain Dustin Brown’s book in that he just loves to play the Coyotes, having scored three of his four goals this season at Gila River Arena.
The third period saw the Kings really implementing their will and just pelting Mike Smith with shot after shot to no avail. With the score deadlocked at two, it felt like the game would inevitably go to overtime. The Kings had primarily set up shop in the offensive zone and were constantly frustrated by Smith bailing out his team. Eventually Brown drew a slashing penalty (yes, Dustin Brown) on Jordan Martinook and the Kings went to work again. This was actually a very good power play. Tanner Pearson smacked the crossbar and Jake Muzzin hit both posts but still no goal. Things were trending in the right direction, though.
Shortly after Arizona killed the man-advantage, Anze Kopitar drew a somewhat dubious tripping penalty on Martin Hanzal. This time, they actually managed to score. In the dying seconds, Jeff Carter sent a perfect feed to the center of the crease towards Kopitar. An unmarked Muzzin swooped in at the last second and managed to get the go-ahead goal with just under two minutes to play in regulation.
The last 60 seconds of the game was heart stopping madness. Kings couldn’t clear and the Coyotes continued to cycle and throw things towards the net. Eleven seconds to go, it was chaos in the crease. Lewis lost his stick, there were bodies everywhere, sticks chopping at a tiny little rubber disc, the goaltender attempting to keep the puck out, red and maroon jerseys blurring together when finally, the horn sounded. Saved by the bell. Kings players and fans alike sighed in relief. That was way more difficult than it needed to be, but they did it; they’d managed to hang on and win in regulation.
Up next: The Kings are back at home against the Colorado Avalanche, who were just down the road at
Disneyland the Honda Center.