Alec Martinez come on down. The 29-year-old has been having a relatively up and down season with some good games mixed in with some awful stinkers. Fortunately for the Los Angeles Kings, tonight was the former and not the latter.
It was another sluggish start in which the Kings saw themselves down a goal two minutes in. The interesting thing about the Toronto Maple Leafs is the rhythm and blue collar work ethic common to Mike Babcock teams that they were able to establish early on. They disrupted the Kings and didn’t let them set up in the offensive zone very much.
There was a chance for LA to tie the game not long after Toronto went ahead when Roman Polak held on to Tanner Pearson (not that anyone can blame him). The power play was not so good. Supposedly they registered three shots on goal but more often than not looked rather, well, disjointed. During the broadcast, Ralph Strangis mentioned how dangerous the Leafs looked every time they had the puck, which felt true enough as they edged the Kings 10-7 in even-strength scoring chances. The first period really wasn’t all that bad. In fact, the home team recorded three high danger chances-for and only one against (per Natural Stat Trick). Of course, the perfect rebuttal to that is scoresheet. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The second period was incredibly pedestrian. Despite an early power play, LA only managed 10 shots through 20 minutes and six minutes into the second, had zero.
Kings have one shot on goal since the 13:36 mark of the first period.— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) March 3, 2017
Hilariously, shortly after this tweet, the Leafs doubled their lead. Brian Boyle won a clean faceoff to Nikita Zaitsev whose seeing-eye shot seemed to hit something in front and beat Jonathan Quick.
In keeping with tradition, LA got close to halving the deficit, but Drew Doughty’s shot rang off a post. Really, it’s time to start a #PostforHart campaign, especially with all the times it’s saved a Kings goal.
Shortly before the end of the period, Brayden McNabb took a penalty. Jim Fox believed that McNabb kept body contact too long, which is why the referee felt that it was interference. Coming into this game, the Leafs had very impressive stats on the man advantage.
McNabb interference; TOR power play leads the league at 23.0%. On the road, it's 27.6%.— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) March 3, 2017
Fortunately, Kings started their penalty kill by winning a faceoff and wasting several seconds with a shorthanded attempt. Immediately after the penalty expired, Jeff Carter was sprung on a breakaway, which forced Mitchell Marner to hook him in the neutral zone in an effort to slow the veteran down. It didn’t really work but it did give LA a third opportunity to get back in the game.
With a power play and a fresh sheet of ice, fortune finally favored the guys in black. Anze Kopitar scored a one-timer off a set play. Sort of.
Kopitar’s style never involves those types of plays and it showed. If not for poor Zaitsev, who was the victim of the Slovenian’s hilariously wide shot, it’s doubtful Kings score there. But, you take what you can get. The reactions were the best part.
A few minutes later, Pearson tied the game. Similar to his goal from a few games ago, he took a hit to make a play. Quick stick work from Tyler Toffoli and Martinez (though the puck really more rolled off his stick) found the net crashing fowrard who beat out Andersen’s poke check.
The rest of the period was fairly quiet. Both teams exchanged a few shots while both goalies were solid. So off to overtime the game went! It was a crazy five minutes of back and forth that solved absolutely nothing.
Bad ice, lots of sprawling across the ice by various players, and somehow, no goals. Kings and Leafs head to the shootout.— Jewels frm the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) March 3, 2017
Toronto doubled up LA in scoring chances and even held a 5-3 advantage in high danger chances, but Quick remained steadfast, (partially) making up for his less-than-stellar game in Minnesota. In the shootout, he made three great saves on Auston Matthews, Marner and William Nylander. The Nylander save was especially Quick-ish.
For the Kings, Kopitar’s marker stood up as the game winner.
With the win, LA passes the idle St. Louis Blues for the final wild card spot in the west. They remain six points behind the Calgary Flames and even in games played. The Blues, on the other hand, have two games in hand. Buckle in folks, it’s going to be a wild ride to the finish line.
Next up, the Vancouver Canucks come to town for Hockey Night In Canada.