Kings @ Avalanche Recap: McNabb, Clifford Lead Offensive Charge
Eleven players get on the scoresheet as the Kings cruise at the Pepsi Center.
Tonight's three stars list wasn't the most unusual one I've ever seen, but it was certainly odd seeing Brayden McNabb and Kyle Clifford headlining. McNabb had a career-high three points, and Clifford and Justin Williams each had multi-point nights in a 5-2 romp over the Colorado Avalanche. In fairness to the rest of the Los Angeles Kings offense tonight, it wasn't just them...
... in fact, even some of the less effective forwards tonight had moments of magic on the ice. How about Jordan Nolan? Worst forward on the ice by Corsi numbers, but there he was in the first period, helping Jeff Carter finish off an excellent give-and-go move to make it 2-0. Trevor Lewis and Dustin Brown were also pretty far down that list, pulling negative possession numbers, but they each chipped in by getting first-period assists and multiple scoring chances apiece. And Nick Shore had an assist in his second return to Denver! (Can't find a bright spot for Jarret Stoll, though, who took two penalties to add to his impressive total.)
It started with Marian Gaborik, though, who tipped in a McNabb blast (which apparently caught a second deflection off Brown) on an early power play to make it 1-0. Overall, the special teams were terrific; in addition to their power play goal, the movement on the second power play was as smooth as we've seen all year. In the meantime, Colorado's 29th-ranked power play posed no challenge whatsoever; when Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli kicked off the first couple penalty kills, you could've been fooled into thinking they had the extra manpower. (Shot attempts with Colorado up a man on the 5-on-4: LA 5, Colorado 1.)
That Carter give-and-go made it two-zip, but when Tyson Barrie slipped Gaborik's cover a minute later, the Kings might have gotten nervous... until Brayden McNabb's blink-and-you-miss-it deflection set it right back another minute later. Poor Calvin Pickard had given up three goals on eight shots, and that was it for him; much like on Thursday against Dustin Tokarski, it was fortunate that LA wasn't getting the opposition's starter.
From there, it was difficult to see the Kings losing this one, as they continued to carry the play and resist the occasional good scoring chance. How'd they do that? If you ask Darryl Sutter, it was guys like Andrej Sekera, taking care of their own zone. However, Jonathan Quick was in fine form as well. Last time he took on Colorado he stopped 42 shots. Tonight's total was half that, but most of his early shots faced were Grade-A looks.
Saves, on saves, on saves. https://t.co/yDHGyw1f6N— LA Kings (@LAKings) March 11, 2015
From there, it was Kyle Clifford with a deft one-handed poke of the puck past Reto Berra, and Jake Muzzin with a howitzer in the third period. Alex Tanguay got wide, wide open when Sekera and McNabb miscommunicated on their coverage, but that hardly mattered when Muzzin scored 1:29 later. Paired with Ondrej Pavelec's disastrous outing in St. Louis, it was a productive evening for the Kings in the standings. LA is above a 95-point pace, but so are eight other Western teams; 95 is probably good enough, but why risk anything? Just keep winning.