Kings @ Hurricanes Recap: Clean Performance, Sloppy Goals
The scoring is non-traditional, but it's a vintage Kings performance.
Remember that disheartening 2-0 loss to Dallas? Hard to believe it was only a week ago. Because tonight was the third straight win for the Los Angeles Kings, and what's even better is that they're starting to win the way we all expect them to win.
Lots of really good individual performances tonight, but we start with the guy who we just analyzed. Usually when a defenseman with zero points gets the second star, it means that he's playing at home and his team got shut out and they had to give a start to SOMEONE, right? However, Brayden McNabb absolutely deserved the accolade. McNabb was calm and composed in his own zone, helped drive play forward despite getting defensive assignments, and got a chance to show off his slapshot from the blueline. He even broke up a potential late assist with his skate. As for an impact play: McNabb's most noticeable impact this season has been his physical impact, and he leveled Jay McClement with a terrific check just inside of his own zone in the first period. The hit drew an instigator from Brad Malone, because apparently Malone needed to send a message about completely clean hits.
The Kings didn't score on that power play, but they did score on a power play earlier in the first after (guess who?) McClement hooked (guess who?) McNabb. Dustin Brown made a lovely pass to Jarret Stoll, who made enough contact on his one-timer to beat Cam Ward up high. The fact that Stoll fluffed the shot a bit didn't matter, because he broke to the net at the perfect time:
Darryl Sutter has moved to a philosophy of putting out his normal line combinations on the PP, and as much as I prefer to see the absolutely stacked unit (12-11-77-6-8) out there, it's tough to argue with the recent success. The Kings had a lot of trouble staying out of the box themselves, taking four stick penalties in the first 22 minutes of the game; LA's PK killed the first three off, but allowed a power play goal on the fourth.
At even strength? The Kings were terrific in the first, but one odd-man rush allowed Jeff Skinner to tie things up. Jake Muzzin aggressively tried to break up a Carolina feed in the neutral zone, but Nathan Gerbe was able to tip it past him, setting up a 2-on-1. Skinner dangled enough to put Drew Doughty on his back and Jonathan Quick on his heels, and his low shot beat Quick on the far side. The score remained 1-1 until intermission, but not for much longer. A good breakout pass by Anze Kopitar got Drew Doughty into the zone with Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis driving. Doughty got it to the net, Gaborik knocked it back into the crease area, and Lewis nudged the puck in with his skate... but it also tipped his stick on the way in. Good goal, top liner!
The Canes scored two minutes later on that power play I mentioned; Eric Staal converted a rebound, and Jim Fox lamented that the Kings had "dominated in so many areas" but were stuck in a tie game. Tanner Pearson, who may or may not have been a scratch consideration tonight, changed that on the very next shift. The Kings' breakout on their third goal was more about persistence than cleanliness, as Mike Richards and Kyle Clifford simply pushed the puck forward until it was at the other end. Clifford and Richards then hacked the puck to the front, and Pearson used a baseball swing to slam the puck home.
That whirlwind of scoring made it 3-2 Kings at the 2:59 mark of the second. After that? Not a goal to be found. Jonathan Quick made 18 more saves, but that wasn't a case of territorial dominance by Carolina; LA had 21 more shots in that time, and Cam Ward kept his team in the game as well. Quick got the victory and the night's best save in the final minute, after Doughty got his jersey stuck in Staal's skate and was essentially removed from the play. The spot vacated by Doughty provided an opening for Elias Lindholm, but Quick flashed the glove...
... and sealed the two points. LA's two-week stay in California started out rough, but they complete the run with a 4-2-1 record.