The Vegas Golden Knights have an MO. They’re fast, they generate good scoring chances, they get in close to the net, and they frustrate you with their tenacity. I don’t think the Los Angeles Kings have quite solved this puzzle yet, and there were a lot of indications on Monday night that this incarnation of the Kings might never totally do it.
Unless Jonathan Quick plays like he did last night, in which case, you’ve got a 50-50 chance. Bet it all on black and cross your fingers.
The Kings found themselves, as they have so many times this season, trailing by a goal, then two, in the third period. They’ve been remarkably good at finding a goal to get back in it, and they’ve had several occasions where they tied (or appeared to tie) the game. This was the first time this year that they sealed the deal after trailing by two in the third, though, and they did it on a night where Team USA showed up.
How’d the Kings get in this type of situation, yet again? The way a lot of teams have against Vegas; one very costly mistake in coverage that was inevitably punished...
...and one effort-driven play by the line of Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson.
Last game against Edmonton, mistakes by Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, and Alec Martinez — The Big Three on D! — all ended up behind Jonathan Quick. Muzzin was the only one to make a glaring error tonight, though Doughty lost a battle with Smith on the Knights’ second goal. We’ve had our eyes on Forbort, Folin, LaDue, and Gravel to do their part for the bottom pair, but if the Kings’ big guys on the blueline can’t clean up their act, it’ll be for naught. The good news? Martinez pulled out a couple of big-time shot blocks, and Dion Phaneuf had his best overall game in a Kings uniform. That helps.
The defense also got a major helping hand from Quick. LA allowed fewer shot attempts than they did in either their first or second matchup against Vegas, but they allowed more scoring chances. That’s where Quick came in. Often brilliant and only rarely out of position tonight, Quick pulled out some huge saves throughout the evening. Alex Tuch could have had a hat trick. James Neal, who left early after an awkward hit on Muzzin, got seven shot attempts in eight minutes. David Perron is still annoying! But Quick kept the Kings within reach, even if it felt like the Kings were fighting the most uphill of battles.
It took 52 minutes for the Kings to beat Marc-Andre Fleury, who was spectacular in the final ten minutes of the game but didn’t have to make many difficult saves up to that point. Jeff Carter had nine shots on goal — the second-most by any King in a game this season — and yet it took a deflection of Cody Eakin’s face to get him a goal. I accepted it, knowing that the Kings still needed a hellacious push in the final five minutes to make that goal matter. LA got that push, and after Quick stopped a 3-on-1 the other way, the Kings went all-out on the Vegas goal. Just as it looked like Fleury was going to repel the charge, Phaneuf passed instead of shooting.
Until then, Kopitar had been handling the puck a lot during the 6-on-5. Just as the Knights stopped paying attention to LA’s leading scorer, he got open for his second of three points on the evening. LA had stolen a point, and much to the Knights’ chagrin, they ended up stealing two after a Vegas crossbar and a Colin Miller hooking penalty. Vegas will have a chance to get redemption tonight; for Dustin Brown, who nearly pulled off two goals in ten seconds against Edmonton before having the second disallowed, redemption didn’t take long either.