Enough has been said about the rivalry—now let’s get to action!
As expected, Vegas came out running, swarming the Kings with their speed. Less than four minutes in, the fourth line of Vegas delivers. William Carrier took Christian Folin out of the play with a well-placed hit, preventing the latter from clearing the puck out of the zone. The puck went to Tomas Nosek, who passed it to Shea Theodore who scored from the point, as Vegas established traffic.
Vegas swarmed again with a Jeff Carter penalty. But eventually the Kings calmed down and established several offensive chances. The fans chanted “Go Knights Go,” obviously having learned from their California neighbors.
Oscar Fantenberg and Paul LaDue are filling in well for the Kings, who are missing Jake Muzzin and Derek Forbort due to injury.
On the power play, Anze Kopitar evades William Karlsson who trips behind the Kings net. It creates a two-man advantage as Adrian Kempe walks in and shoots the puck off the boards. The puck goes right in front to Dustin Brown who missed the wide-open net as the puck fluttered. Then Marc-Andre Fleury juggles the puck and makes the save on the Kings’ next chance.
It is mostly a defensive battle, with both teams hitting and defending with bodies and stick checks. Los Angeles used superior positioning and the calm that comes from playoff experience to neutralize the Golden Knights. But Vegas stymied the Kings with speed and steals. They also hit constantly—Drew Doughty is a prime target. A smart choice; if Doughty is taken out of the series, the Kings are sitting ducks.
Vegas had another dangerous power play with a Trevor Lewis penalty, but Jonathan Quick made some amazing point-blank saves to keep the game close for the Kings. It is nice to see Quick at playoff form again, after giving up four goals in his last two games.
An outnumbered attack by Kopitar was ruined by Brown, who accidentally fell backwards over Fleury to get a penalty. But again, the penalty killing unit was up to task.
In the final few minutes, both teams tried to deflect pucks into the net, but were not successful. As expected, Vegas used its speed to enter the zone aggressively and pepper the net with several chances. But most went wide.
Fans are chanting “Beat LA,” and one thing is for sure—this game is much more fun to watch than the anxiety-inducing, hair-pulling experience that comes from a series with the San Jose Sharks.
Will the third period magic continue for the Kings?
The third line of the Knights established great pressure to start. But the Kings did not buckle, and defended calmly.
The Kings could not sustain prolonged offensive pressure, and continued to weather the storm. Fantenberg and LaDue played well, breaking up some grade-A chances for Vegas. With around 12:30 to go, William Karlsson beat two Kings to preserve the shift, and sauced a pass to Ryan Reaves for a one-timer. But Quick made another highlight save.
All of a sudden, Drew Doughty hit Carrier up high to spin him around and down. It was revenge, as Carrier has been hitting Doughty all night, triggering Doughty to talk trash. Then the Kings finally break out with speed of their own. Kopitar, as trailer, takes the puck down low to expose Fleury out of position. This time, nobody falls over Fleury, but once again, Kopitar runs out of room. The referee loses sight of the puck and blows the whistle.
Halfway into the period, the Kings only managed one shot on goal.
The action opened up. The Knights missed a few long passes that could have been breakaways. The Kings deflect a puck just wide of Fleury. Then Erik Haula shoots it wide after his two-on-one chance. And Pierre-Edouard Bellemare drove in with speed, but his wrister was gloved by Quick.
In the last five minutes, the Kings had favorable ice position thanks to several icing calls, but could not unleash any dangerous shots. With one minute to go, the Kings pulled Quick, but as Alex Faust would say, the “active sticks” of the Golden Knights prevented the Kings from creating any pressure.
Vegas wins the first game of the first-round series. It’s clear that the Knights, with their speed on both sides of the ice, will not give the Kings much time or room to operate. When the Kings get a golden chance, they must convert, and Brown did not do so. Along with yet another slow start, that was the difference tonight.
The Kings outhit Vegas 68-59 and slightly outshot Vegas 30-28. But William Carrier led all skaters with 10 hits (whoa!), and Jonathan Marchessault had 8.