I appreciate it when a game of hockey follows a narrative. Sure, it’s annoying when a narrative is forced on you while you’re trying to focus on what’s actually happening, but on some nights, you’re lucky enough to have a full Shakespearean drama unfold in front of your eyes.
The 5-0 win for the Kings started off pretty entertaining, mind you. I couldn’t believe it was scoreless after 20 minutes, given the caliber of scoring chances happening at both ends of the ice. By this point of the season, we’re used to seeing brilliant play from Jonathan Quick, but Cam Talbot (.905 save percentage entering this game) was matching him stop-for-stop early on. Talbot had some early help from the post on the power play, as Drew Doughty’s long-distance effort beat all the traffic but caught iron. Doughty failed to extend his goal-scoring streak to 3, but he’d play a central role regardless. (And not just because he played 26 minutes, blocked five shots, and made three hits.) At the other end, Leon Draisaitl had his own power play shot get by Quick, but it squirmed wide after getting under the netminder.
By the time Quick pulled out a top-drawer blocker save on Connor McDavid and Tanner Pearson was stoned by Talbot from the slot, it was clear that only the best scoring opportunity was going to find the net. Who would break through? In the second, it looked like it would be McDavid and the Oilers, as LA got through the first 15 minutes of the second with just two shots on goal. McDavid continued to look dangerous all night, and his third straight pointless game (a career first) was not for lack of effort. Despite allowing a season-high 19 high-danger scoring chances (according to Natural Stat Trick), LA kept Edmonton off the board all night with a combination of solid positioning, timely clearances, and a small dose of good luck. That came when Jesse Puljujarvi missed this net:
By that point, though, we had gotten a breakthrough. And as you probably guessed, it was... Andy Andreoff! Andreoff had a really solid game, and linemates Torrey Mitchell and Jussi Jokinen rebounded after an underwhelming showing against Vancouver. Mitchell teamed with Oscar Fantenberg on a beauty of a breakout, as Fantenberg slid the puck past a pinching Kris Russell to set up a 2-on-1. Andreoff’s finish was perfect.
Andreoff converting when Puljujarvi (the #4 overall pick in 2016) could not? Already a nice summation of this game. Puljujarvi’s miss was overshadowed a minute later, though, when Patrick Maroon caught Drew Doughty with a late blow to the head in the final seconds of the second period. As the NBC talking heads hypothesized, Maroon’s punishment will probably be fairly light because Doughty was able to return shortly after the third began. (Side note: thank goodness this happened at the end of the period so we didn’t have to deal with another concussion protocol snafu.) But after Derek Forbort forced Maroon to defend his hit, the referees sent Maroon to the showers, giving the Kings five minutes of power play time to start the third. How’d that go? In a word, well.
- Trevor Lewis scored.
- Dustin Brown scored.
- Adrian Kempe scored.
Suddenly, every Oilers pregame storyline and every Kings in-game storyline crystallized. Edmonton’s 57% home penalty kill percentage actually got worse. Coming off a 5-0 home loss, the Oilers were suddenly down 4-0 and getting booed. The Oilers’ attempts to rough up LA’s stars — Anze Kopitar also was shaken up briefly after a hit from Milan Lucic — immediately backfired. Power Play Trevor Lewis rode again. Doughty himself set up the second PPG with a nice play to keep the puck in the zone. The team in the top two of the Pacific was taking it to the team which was supposed to be in the top two of the Pacific. And as if the game needed another microcosm, Kopitar shook off McDavid in order to set up Brown’s second goal of the night late on.
Brown passed Wayne Gretzky on the all-time Kings goal list with that one, but his continued rejuvenation was only a footnote in this game. LA might need to limit chances better, and they might need to do something about their generally mediocre second period performances, but last night, they overwhelmed those concerns by overwhelming the Oilers in the third. 2018 is in full swing.