Los Angeles Kings @ Vegas Golden Knights, Game #64 Recap: Soup’s On!

The Kings will end February in a playoff spot thanks to a very impressive first career win from Jack Campbell.

After taking two points from the Vegas Golden Knights in a game where they probably deserved zero — maybe one, if you’re feeling generous — the Los Angeles Kings had an even tougher task the following night. Vegas had outscored opponents 29-16 on a seven-game homestand before their trip to LA, and now the Kings had to go into T-Mobile Arena and use a goalie who had played a grand total of 20 minutes in a Kings uniform. We forgot two things, though:

  1. Vegas was using their backup too.
  2. LA backups are MAGIC.

Jack Campbell pulled off a 41-save performance in his first start since October 20, 2013, and LA put together a considerably better performance than they did on the previous night in winning 4-1.

There are plenty of places to start after a game like this one, but really, there’s only one player to discuss right off the bat. The first star of last night’s game was Jack Campbell, one night after Jonathan Quick should have been first star. Campbell’s performance may not have needed to be as spectacular as Quick’s -- more on the reasons why in a bit -- but the 26-year-old was remarkably composed after a shaky start and looked really solid in the final two periods as Vegas chased the game.

The above was either his best or his most precarious save, depending on how you look at it. Campbell also made at least one save on every other Golden Knight, including a denial of Erik Haula on a chance very similar to Haula’s goal on Monday night and five stops on Cody Eakin. I was worried early on about Campbell, as the Golden Knights’ plan was clearly to get Campbell moving side-to-side, and he is slower than Quick is in that regard. (Who isn’t?) William Karlsson’s goal came as Campbell made a toe save but found Jake Muzzin careening into his crease, which also may have foreshadowed some tough times for Campbell. However, Campbell’s first start in a Kings uniform got a whole lot better from there, and for the former #11 pick, it was a night to remember.

Also helping Campbell’s cause: the Kings defense, who played the bend-but-don’t-break strategy a whole lot better than they did on Monday. Sure, Vegas actually got more shots than they did at Staples, but that was to be expected for a team that played from behind most of the night. The shots, though, were far less dangerous. As per Natural Stat Trick, Vegas got off 28 shot attempts from the scoring chance area, as opposed to the 43 they fired on Monday. NBCSN’s crew commented on the much slower pace, and in periods two and three, the Knights’ cross-ice passes simply weren’t there. Given that Drew Doughty (in the box) and Jake Muzzin (in the crease) each had a hand in the Knights’ first goal after some low moments in recent games, the overall improvement was highly encouraging for the six defensemen.

It’s all nothing without goals, though, and thanks to a sloppier Vegas effort, LA had some opportunities to take advantage of. A giant one came to Kyle Clifford in the first, and he didn’t miss:

It was one of the worst turnovers I’ve seen all year, and it sparked the Kings, who cleaned up their act and controlled the first period from that point on. The aforementioned slow second didn’t lead to much offense, but Tyler Toffoli took advantage of one of LA’s first chances of the second period.

Despite outshooting LA 17-7 in the second, Vegas simply couldn’t generate the dangerous opportunities which were a dime a dozen on Monday, and their job got a whole lot harder when Anze Kopitar generated a dangerous opportunity out of basically nothing. Did he convert it? My dear reader, you already know the answer to that question.

That wonderful goal put Vegas in the same position as LA found themselves during the third period 24 hours earlier, but they again failed to gain traction. The Corsi figures looked good for the Knights, but their fatigue showed a little bit, and their lack of discipline tanked any chance they had to climb back into it. More specifically, Ryan Reaves’ lack of discipline. He laid a big hit on Derek Forbort which caught just enough of Forbort’s numbers to draw a call, though it was a borderline penalty to call in the third, and six minutes later he took a much dumber penalty after missing that scoring chance against Campbell. Vegas clearly thought Doughty sold Reaves’ contact to the head; Gerard Gallant drew a penalty for “abuse of officials,” leading to Jeff Carter’s power play goal off a feed from Kopitar, and Reaves criticized the referees after the game. It wasn’t a shining couple nights for the new Golden Knight, whose third-period penalty on Monday also led to a Carter PPG.

It was a shining evening for several other Kings though. For Alex Iafallo, who recovered from one of his least memorable games as a King... for Christian Folin, who overcame talk of getting scratched with a solid showing... for the penalty killers, who shut down four Vegas power plays... for That 70’s Line, which celebrated together and clearly missed it... and for Jonathan Quick, who got to relax a little bit! It wasn’t LA’s best game of the season, but it was an opportunistic road effort and a clear capitalization on a dramatic Monday win.