After suffering two consecutive 5-0 losses in Washington and Tampa Bay that caused a revival of Kings fans’ cries for trades and coaching changes, the Kings took over early and often in Florida, defeating the Panthers 6-3 in convincing fashion.
It was the return of the Kings’ very first play-by-play announcer Jiggs McDonald, who called his first Kings game since the team’s first five seasons from 1967-72. McDonald, who has announced at least one game for 50 NHL seasons, was as sharp as ever, even referring to the referees as the “Law Firm of Luxmore and Morton.”
After an early penalty by Jussi Jokinen, Dustin Brown shot the puck from a 90 degree angle to the right of goaltender James Reimer. Brown anticipated that Reimer would move away from the crease, opening up room for a deflection only 1:39 into the game:
Six minutes later, aggressive stick work by Tanner Pearson disrupted the possession of Alex Petrovic, making him unable to take advantage of a Kings line change. Continued possession work by Pearson led to a juicy rebound goal from the hash marks by—who else—Jeff Carter, who is second in the NHL in goals (29):
After a slam dunk goal by Jokinen from a nice corner pass by Nick Bjugstad, a 4-on-4 breakout by Drew Doughty led to a pass through traffic to Tyler Toffoli, who repositioned his body weight for a top-shelf snipe and a 3-1 lead:
The Panthers were in serious trouble. Roberto Luongo entered the game for Reimer. But after more Kings goals by Pearson, Dwight King (officials reviewed the play but the video clearly showed the puck was in), and Carter, that was it for Luongo. The 37-year-old Luongo (still hope for me in athletics!) only played relief for 12:32 of ice time before Reimer returned to the pipes.
Jaromir Jagr (still very much hope for all of us!) had an assist and was -1. Aaron Ekblad was largely silent, with no points and three giveaways. Rising star Aleksander Barkov scored a goal with less than a minute remaining after relentless net play by Jonathan Huberdeau.
Paul LaDue was a +1 and scored his first NHL assist. LaDue was effective but struggled to hold the puck in the zone in a first-period power play, and was on ice for the Barkov late goal. It remains to be seen whether LaDue—a valued young prospect—will rise high enough to warrant a trade of Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez, who both have a cap hit of $4 million per year each.
The modified line of Pearson, Carter, and Brown produced four goals, clearly making the difference in this game. Brown was visibly effective tonight, with one goal and one assist.
The Kings (60 points) enter a league-mandated (labor-advocated) bye week with a much-needed win to stay afloat in the wild card race, as the Nashville Predators (60 points) and Calgary Flames (59 points) have games scheduled in the meantime.
Los Angeles’ next game is versus the Arizona Coyotes on February 16.