It was an emotional night as the Toronto Maple Leafs and the recently traded Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford, and Jake Muzzin came through on their California road swing.
Campbell has (technically) been down the trade road before, though he was in a different situation when he got an opportunity to restart his career under the guidance of Dusty Imoo and become a valuable member of the Los Angeles Kings during his tenure here. But neither Clifford nor Muzzin had ever been part of a trade before. While everyone on the ice displayed the utmost professionalism (it is, after all, part of their jobs), Clifford acknowledged in a post practice interview that it’s “different being on the visitors sides of things.”
The video tribute brought out a lot of mixed feelings in fans—sad that those guys are no longer playing for LA, though happy for them and wishing all the best with their new teams.
Fan favorite Clifford definitely received the loudest applause. He was the heart and soul of this team for 10 years and was always nice to his fans. The humble guy from Ayr, Ontario was one of the hardest working players on the ice and helped Los Angeles reach the pinnacle in their sport not once, but twice. And now he gets a chance to help his hometown team do the same.
“We gave our heart & soul to this franchise & that was a good reaction by the crowd, but at the same time we’re excited to be @MapleLeafs"@13KCliffy chats about his return to LA with his new team@CarrlynBathe | @LAKings | #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/KAzQASZBKc— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) March 6, 2020
Unfortunately for Clifford and the Maple Leafs, Jonathan Quick was in no mood to give away free points. The first 10 minutes of the game were great for the Kings. They had their chances and their opportunities, they just couldn’t beat Frederik Andersen. That allowed Toronto to get settled and start to turn the tide in their favor.
In the first period, LA had two power plays and killed one early penalty. Their first power play was such a mess that it allowed three shorthanded breakaways, two of which made it all the way to Quick. The second power play was a little better than the first, but still couldn’t score (a recurring theme of the night). The PK was overall excellent, allowing only one blocked shot attempt.
In spite of all the emotions, it was business as usual for Clifford, who got a jump early with hits on Gabriel Vilardi and Sean Walker in his first shift.
Even Drew Doughty couldn’t resist getting in on the action.
"Obviously, I see him as a big, tough guy out there who's going to rock other guys, so I'll try to get him... get him once."— LA Kings (@LAKings) March 6, 2020
Drew Doughty fulfilling his pregame wish to get one good hit on Kyle Clifford #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/HkOOArFvyP
The first period ended scoreless, and until overtime, was probably the home team’s best efforts offensively.
As has been the case all season long, the middle stanza was kind of a mess in which the Kings were dominated all over the ice and had to rely heavily on their goaltender to keep them afloat. John Tavares drew a tripping penalty four minutes and a key block combined with a critical diving play from Anze Kopitar got the puck out of the zone and, temporarily at least, out of harm’s way. All told, LA allowed 27 shot attempts while generating only nine of their own.
The Kings were a little bit better in the final frame with 13 shot attempts and only surrendering 20 to the Maple Leafs. There did come a point in the last five minutes of regulation where Quick came under siege and somehow survived it all. It was very akin to Luke Skywalker’s final stand in The Last Jedi and then Quick was like
So then it was on to three-on-three overtime, which is generally where the Kings shine. With a 7-3 record entering the night’s matchup, one might be confident that Los Angeles could pull off a miraculous win, particularly when Tavares hooked Alex Iafallo, putting his team down a man for two minutes. As it had struggled all night long, so it continued to struggle. There were moments of brilliance followed by a couple of shorthanded breakaways. And shortly after the Maple Leafs finished killing the penalty, William Nylander tried to end the game for good but Quick was in serious denial mode.
Sixty five minutes solved nothing and on to the coin flip skills competition it was. The Kings elected to shoot first and Todd McLellan tapped Nikolai Prokhorkin, who’d had a really good (but seriously unlucky) game to go. He didn’t score, but he did show that he has some great, quick hands in tight. Next up was Jason Spezza, who did not score, followed by Michael Amadio who actually had Frederik Andersen beat, but still managed to stuff puck right into his pad.
Then Auston Matthews went, but he whiffed on one dangle too many.
Kopitar scored on a nice, simply executed play; Nylander finally beat Quick one-on-one; Adrian Kempe went around the world to score; and Mitch Marner got the goalie to bite but missed with his attempt.
Thus, the coin flipped in favor of the home team and the visitors left with only one point.