Kings-Wild Recap: LA Starts Fast, Bernier Coasts to Shutout in Win Over Minnesota
Williams and Carter deliver an early 1-2 punch, chasing Nicklas Backstrom from the Minnesota net. Jonathan Bernier earns the shutout by making 23 saves, but gets plenty of help from a strong defensive performance. Regehr earns an assist in his first game as a King.
This season, we've written plenty of recaps about a team getting very few shots. Of course, normally it's the Los Angeles Kings dominating the shot battle. Tonight, the Kings were held to 14 shots, and yet looked comfortable and in control on their way to a 3-0 win over the Minnesota Wild. To say the least, they did a much better job of holding a lead than the last time they played Minnesota. Was it Robyn Regehr or Jonathan Bernier that made the difference? You decide!
(In all seriousness, Regehr played well in his debut. More on that coming up.)
[Box Score] [Zone Starts] [Shot Differential] [Video Highlights]
Justin Williams is smoking hot, according to the stats and a rather large segment of Kings fans. He got a really fortunate bounce on Tuesday night to extend his goal-scoring streak, but his two goals tonight were both the result of pure skill. The first came 1:29 into the game, as the Wild were caught up ice after a shot went wide and rimmed around the boards. Justin Williams took possession inside his own zone and immediately had a 2-on-1 with Dustin Brown. It seems like shooting it on 2-on-1 breaks has been working all year for us, and Williams decided the pass wasn't there and rifled a shot over Niklas Backstrom's right shoulder. It was the first shot of the game for either team.
Apparently, the leading goalscorer for the Kings looked behind him and saw Williams creeping closer in goals on the season, because he tallied the second goal for the Kings shortly after. Mike Richards led a 3-on-2 with the Wild struggling to change personnel, and after crossing the blue line he skated horizontally towards Kyle Clifford. Both defensemen followed, leaving a streaking Jeff Carter all alone down the right side. Other teams: don't leave Jeff Carter alone. He waited long enough for Backstrom's five hole to open up and slid the puck right on through, to give the Kings a 2-0 lead 3:09 in. It was the second shot of the game for either team.
The demoralized Wild pulled the NHL wins leader for German-Canadian (thanks Wikipedia!) backup Darcy Kuemper, looking for some sort of spark. At the very least, the Wild did keep it 2-0 for the remainder of the first, though Anze Kopitar nearly scored seven minutes in on a breakaway, and Jake Muzzin hit the post on a long slapshot later in the period. The best chance for the Wild in the first came when new arrival Jason Pominville found some room on the right side, but Bernier made the stop. But the second started much like the first, with Justin Williams giving Los Angeles an insurmountable 3-0 lead. Robyn Regehr got his name on the scoresheet by taking the puck away from Jason Pominville (BUFFALO SHOWDOWN!), and Anze Kopitar grabbed it and fed it ahead to Williams. A bad line change by Minnesota left him with tons of space, and his shot was unstoppable, ringing off the crossbar and in.
(I circled the player on a five-game goal scoring streak with no one within 30 feet of him)
Anyway, the Kings only got two additional shots in the second and five more in the third. But the gameplan was pretty clearly not to let the Wild back in it, and consider the plan a success. Bernier did get some more work, making 17 saves after the Williams goal. Among them: a point-blank stop on Zach Parise at the end of a power play, an example of just getting enough of a shot when Pierre-Marc Bouchard's bid hid the post, and a good stop on Pominville midway through the third. (Sidenote: Williams went awkwardly into the boards immediately after this, but didn't miss any time and appeared to be uninjured soon after.) Bernier turned aside some late bids by the Wild to earn his first shutout of what has been a banner year for him. With a back-to-back coming up, we'll see whether Bernier draws Edmonton or Anaheim for his run at ten straight wins.
Lastly, if you missed the game you're wondering about Regehr's performance. All in all, a good start for the new guy. His poke check on Pominville led to goal #3, and aside from that, he obviously wasn't responsible for any goals against. A few clears out of the slot and the crease, a couple of hits, and you couldn't really ask for anything more. Regehr started off the game with Keaton Ellerby before switching to Drew Doughty in the first period, and the majority of the second and the entirety of the third saw Regehr with Doughty and Ellerby with Muzzin. Methinks we might be seeing those pairs on Saturday as well.
Three questions for the readership...
- What did you think of Regehr's debut?
- Should Regehr play with Ellerby, Doughty, or other?
- How do you play the goalies this weekend?