LA Kings @ Detroit Red Wings Game 25 Recap: Pizza Night in the Motor City

The Kings’ biggest stars prove their worth in a tight game (through 40 minutes anyway).

The Los Angeles Kings earned their seventh win in their 11th road game, which is pretty impressive, but they also ceded the first goal for the eighth time in their last 10 contests. The Detroit Red Wings struck first when a bunch of Kings decided to go on vacation and let Mike Green walk into a prime scoring area completely uncontested.

Oscar Fantenberg and Alec Martinez overloaded one side of the ice on a Red Wings breakout leaving Anze Kopitar all by himself to defend a 2-on-1. Kopitar was one of the only Kings to actually recognize what was happening otherwise it might’ve been a 2-on-1. And god-like though the Slovenian may be, a defenseman he is not. In any case, Green faked a pass, getting Jonathan Quick to hesitate just enough for the defenseman to pick his shot.

Fortunately for the Kings, that’s all the scoring the Wings would do. Up to that point, they’d actually been doing pretty well, but hadn’t had much luck in scoring on Jimmy Howard. Even more fortunately for LA, their number one netminder was up to the task as the second period was almost entirely the Jonathan Quick show. Los Angeles got their share of shots on goal but the better chances went to Detroit.

A little over midway through the second period, Dylan Larkin had a glorious shorthanded chance after some ugly turnovers in the corner and Quick was down and out of the play. Or so thought everyone. Except Quick. Somehow he “sensed,” as Jim Fox put it, where the puck would be.

For all the world, this game felt a lot like a stalemate. Kings couldn’t seem to break through but had a lot of chances and nothing to show for it. (Focus on the area before the red dot.)

But then something magical happened. Dustin Brown tied the game with just over two minutes left in the period with a great wristshot. Howard initially denied Kopitar on the doorstep and the puck was loose in the corner to Howard’s right. Kopitar fell down and even on his side, kept whacking at the puck, not giving up on the play until Brown came in and was able to score from just outside the hashmarks.

(editor’s note: It’s appropriate that this point was where the game changed, because this is also where the author of the recap changed.)

With Brown having tied Tyler Toffoli and Anze Kopitar for the team lead in goals, you just knew that one of them would have something to say about it. Before that, though,  Quick had to make two more close-range stops on Gustav Nyquist, just to keep things interesting. It ended up being Kopitar who took the lead back by himself, and it didn’t take long after the Red Wings took an interference penalty with 15 seconds to go. The penalty was unpopular with the fans, and it got more unpopular after a perfect Drew Doughty cross-ice feed was buried by the captain.

The Wings got 18 minutes of intermission to try and bounce back, but it didn’t help. On the contrary, Detroit looked done, especially after an Oscar Fantenberg shot caromed to Adrian Kempe at the side of the net. Kempe showed quick hands to tuck the puck around the post before anyone could stop him, and after one minute of the third and one satisfied nod from Kempe, it was 3-1. A second goal from Kopitar made it 4-1, and he made it look easy, carrying the puck in from center, finding a lane, and firing a puck off the post and in.

In the end: surprisingly lopsided! This was Quick’s best performance in Detroit since his 51-save shutout so many years ago... at least, I’m assuming it was, because how much better could Quick have been? It was enough to dishearten the Wings, who mustered just four shots in the third, and it was enough to give LA their first winning streak of November. With a tough stretch of games on the horizon, LA had to have been encouraged by the goaltending and special teams throughout. Oh, and the whole scoring thing in the final 23 minutes.