Bad news: The Los Angeles Kings ceded two points to their division rival and holder of the #1 wildcard. While the teams play head-to-head three more times, two are in Calgary – one the wrong end of a back-to-back – making the current five-point gap (65 v. 70) seem daunting.
Good news: In their third game in four nights the Los Angeles Kings earned a point (65) against a division rival, on the road, in overtime. They lie two points (67) behind the holder of the second wildcard, the St. Louis Blues, a team that recently traded their best defenseman and has lost three in a row.
The Kings started strong and thoroughly controlled play in the first period, sagged significantly in the second, and hung on through the third. This was, perhaps, to be expected given their recent schedule, and the combination of the Flames upfront speed and a 1,050-mile overnighter seemed to sap the team’s energy as the game progressed.
The Kings lone goal came in the first period, and required not one but two official reviews to confirm. Working from behind the net on a power play, Anze Kopitar put the puck on net, which Tanner Pearson jammed home after a couple of attempts. The official’s whistle came late, and no indication of a goal was given, so to Toronto they went. After announcing a good goal, the Flames challenged the goal claiming goaltender interference, which was ultimately denied.
Coming out of the first intermission, the Flames made a push to move pucks off the boards and pressure the Kings more quickly. By the fifteen-minute mark you got the sense the Kings would needed a second goal to win the game, and the Flames were on the board minutes later with a Micheal Ferland goal.
Jake Muzzin drew most of the public attention after this play, getting crushed in the corner by Ferland then beat to the net for the goal. However, I think Dwight King and Dustin Brown are most likely to hear from coaches in private, as they made key (if understandable) mistakes on the play. King’s decision to not go up the boards with the puck took Muzzin by surprise, and allowed Ferland a clean hit in the corner. As Paul Ladue pushed play up the half-boards, Brown was bodied off the puck by Mark Giordano, who made a world class play to feed Ferland in the slot. A series of small mistakes and a 1-1 game.
Johnny Gaudreau absolutely terrifies me, and his ability to push back Kings defenders and create scoring chances is reaching Teemu Selanne-like levels. Five minutes after Ferland’s goal he had a fantastic chance on a two-on-one feed from Sean Monahan, only to be stopped by Ben Bishop.
Bishop played extremely well, his size and sound technical play a stark contrast to Jonathan Quick’s acrobatic style. Facing 30 shots, with several quality chances in tight, Bishop lived up to Dean Lombardi’s expectations. If he continues to play as steadily as he did tonight, and the Kings are still in a playoff race, we may be looking at a situation where he assumes starter’s responsibilities for the remainder of the season.
Paul Ladue drew in and fared well, carrying a 54% 5 v. 5 corsi on the night against tough competition and moving pucks well in high-danger situations.
Impressive, LaDue stays with shifty Gaudreau pic.twitter.com/umCTvAOo7g— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) March 1, 2017
The third period was, well to be honest the third period was surprisingly boring until the final few minutes. Mark Giordano crushed Dustin Brown (who still managed to clear the puck), Brayden McNabb once again proved he is not a fighter, and the Kings nearly stole a win in regulation on Jake Muzzin’s blast from just inside the Flame’s blueline with seconds to go.
The dagger came, again, in overtime, and again with numbers 8, 11, and 77 watching. T.J. Brodie was the hero on the play, denying Anze Kopitar a chance in front of Brian Elliot and then somehow managing to stay onside while receiving a beautiful pass from Mikael Backlund on the opposite end. A little forehand/backhand deke and the Flames were celebrating a well-deserved victory.
Nineteen games remain, the next seven of which lie at home. The Kings have three back-to-back sets remaining, each where they will face a rested opponent in the second game. If this club is to make the playoffs it must start at home over the next two and a half weeks.