I really want to focus on the effort that the Los Angeles Kings put forth tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. I really, really do. I just hope I don’t get distracted by anyone’s individual highlights.
It’d be a shame if I focused too much on one guy, because the Kings had a really excellent overall performance. Their old bugaboo of allowing the game’s first goal bit them again 3:33 in, as Mikko Rantanen kept his excellent season going off an assist from Hart Trophy favorite Nathan MacKinnon. At that point the Avs had six of the game’s first seven shots and were looking dangerous. After that? It was all Kings, as LA took 14 of the next 17 shots over the rest of the period. LA poured 35 shots on goal overall and a few of them even went in.
In contrast to LA’s exhausted showing in Winnipeg, the Kings were able to hold a lead and sustain it, all the more impressive against a similarly explosive Colorado squad. As the Kings went up by two, then three, then four, they continued to control the game, staying disciplined and ensuring that Jonathan Quick didn’t face an onslaught until it was far too late. The Kings blocked nine shots, below their recent outputs, but Colorado only blocked two! Jake Muzzin’s first-period goal was just another shot that got through, as he found a lane after a clean faceoff win by Nate Thompson.
LA ended up taking a 3-1 lead into the second after a late power play goal, and Tobias Rieder — he of the one goal in twelve games as a King — decided it was his time to shine. Nathan MacKinnon hit the underside of the crossbar in Colorado’s last real chance at getting back into the game, and shortly after that Rieder went the other way on the break, using the speed we’ve heard so much about but only occasionally have seen in action. That made it 4-1, and after the Kings survived a subsequent penalty kill, they took back control and continued to increase their lead.
Along with Thompson, Dustin Brown had two assists tonight, continuing his resurgence; he’s now reached 30 assists for the third time in his career, and he’s got an outside chance of reaching his career high of 60 points by season’s end. They were both outshined a bit... by Tobias Rieder! The speedster got his second goal of the game on a nice feed from Jeff Carter, and on a night where other Kings thrived, it was probably most important that Rieder step up with his desire to stay in the Kings’ top six.
By that time, Avalanche backup Jonathan Bernier was in goal, the Kings were coasting, and the rest of the West was relieved that this wasn’t going to be a three-point game. No team benefited more than LA, though, as the Kings jumped back into third in the Pacific and kept pace on a night when most of their rivals were idle. Except for Colorado, who lost. To the Kings.
Did we miss anything?
Oh, right. Anze Kopitar scored four goals tonight.