Going into it . . .
- The Los Angeles Kings look to go Panther hunting a day after they went gator hunting in the Florida Everglades as part of their Father/Brother trip on their off-day.
- Florida . . . MAN! In a division containing four of the original six NHL teams (Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs) it may come as a surprise that the Florida Panthers came into tonight’s contest second in the entire league in average goals per game at 3.62. They feature seven players who have reached double digits in goals for the season, led by Evgenii Dadonov (19) and all-time franchise points leader Jonathan Huberdeau (18).
- Despite their goal-scoring prowess, Florida came in tenth in the Eastern Conference. Starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was still recovering from a lower body injury. Chris Dreidger drew the start, but was replaced ten minutes into the game after suffering an injury. The Panthers’ third-string goalie, Sam Montembeault, was in net. So we’ll see if the Kings could test their goaltending depth.
- Jack Campbell drew the start for Los Angeles.
On to the Game
For much of the game, the Florida Panthers had their third string goalie in net. In addition, the Panthers were near the bottom third of the league in goals allowed for the season. Despite that, the Los Angeles Kings found much difficulty in generating quality scoring chances. As was the case in the previous game against the Tampa Bay Lighting, Los Angeles made their net front presence known, as their three goals were in close range, or high danger areas. Florida gave the Kings no room down the middle. Any semblance of a scoring chance LA mustered challenged Panthers goalie Sam Montembeault in the one-and-done variety.
Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers demonstrated their scoring acumen by netting the first four goals of the game. Los Angeles didn’t make it too difficult for them to get them:
In the first period, the Kings’ Austin Wagner was sent to the box on a holding penalty in the offensive zone. In the ensuing Panthers power play, all-time franchise scoring leader Jonathan Huberdeau found teammate Evgenii Dadonov for a wide open net off of some quick puck movement to open the scoring at 1-0:
The Panthers’ second goal of the game resulted from a counterattack of a Kings’ attempt to establish the forecheck. Florida’s clear into space from their own defensive zone three minutes into the second period put the Kings into scramble mode, where they were unable to recover. The result: Florida’s Dominic Toninato found an unchecked Frank Vatrano for a 2-0 lead:
The Kings were just seconds away from killing a Matt Roy highsticking penalty in the third period, but Mike Matheson’s shot from the point got past a screened Jack Campbell for a 3-0 Panthers lead off a faceoff:
From hopeless to dire, the Kings dug themselves into an even deeper 4-0 deficit as Brian Boyle pounced on a Trevor Lewis misplay:
From that point, the Kings must have gotten themselves a keg of wake up juice as they put in a bid for a furious comeback.
First, it was Alex Iafallo redirecting a Drew Doughty point shot to spoil Florida’s shutout bid:
That assist by Drew Doughty tied him for most points in Kings franchise history for defensemen with current GM Rob Blake at 494, and put him ninth all-time among all Kings players.
Adrian Kempe closed the Kings’ deficit at 4-2 on the power play, off a feed from Anze Kopitar:
Then Anze Kopitar closed the gap even further at 4-3 on the Kings next power play, as he and Nikolai Prokhorkin crashed the net:
In the end, the Kings’ comeback bid fell just short. They showed heart in making the game exciting, and not mailing it in. Perhaps earlier engagement could have changed the complexion of the game.