Canadiens @ Kings Recap: In Which Marian Gaborik Puts the Team On His Back
The Kings look absolutely dominant for the game's first half, but they still need a late comeback to earn a 4-3 win over Montreal.
Let's not bury the lede here: the Los Angeles Kings won a shootout! That doesn't quite do justice to the up-and-down nature of their showdown with the Montreal Canadiens, though. Let's go through it.
I'm gonna start with the shootout anyway. You'd been hearing the stats ad nauseam; 2-for-28 on the season, no goals in their last 24 attempts, and zero hope for any shootout at any point. Considering we had nearly the entire Jewels staff at yesterday's game, I was ready to make my recap entirely composed of our combined shootout gripes.
And yet... we were optimistic! Sheng and I predicted a win and we got it, though the combined goaltending performance from Dustin Tokarski and Jonathan Quick was pretty atrocious. In fact, in eight shots, the goalies only got one save, and it was when Alex Galchenyuk basically bobbled the puck into Quick. On LA's end, Marian Gaborik, Jeff Carter, and Anze Kopitar (the Round 4 winner) all went for shots and succeeded, while Tyler Toffoli had the upper corner after a fake shot and missed it. Meanwhile, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty each went high after Quick made unsuccessful poke checks, and needing to score, Lars Eller went for the same and hit the post. Nice to get the extra point for once, and especially nice for Anze Kopitar, who has been Old Faithful in years past but was 0-for-7 in 2014-15.
The fact of the matter, though, is that the shootout should never have happened. For a few reasons. Mainly: LA played a perfect first period. Montreal got one shot on goal in the first 19:58 of the period, while LA continually forced the action, maintaining zone time and getting looks at Dustin Tokarski. They got an early power play when Dustin Brown drew a hooking call on Torrey Mitchell, and they cashed in, as Gaborik tipped Brayden McNabb's shot past Tokarski. Four minutes later, Jeff Carter jumped on to join Justin Williams and Dustin Brown, and a beautifully executed give-and-go with Brown gave Carter his team-leading 22nd of the season. (David Desharnais tried to stay with Carter for a moment, but even the little speedster wasn't gonna make it back to break up the pass.)
The Kings didn't relax at the start of the second, even with their lead, and Montreal still had just five shots well past the midpoint of the game. Even with their possession dominance, though, LA was starting to get a touch sloppy. A behind-the-net turnover by Jake Muzzin here, a miscommunication between Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr there, a moment of doubt with McNabb and Andrej Sekera here, a stumble from Matt Greene there. Am I picking on the defensemen? Maybe, but no team scores three goals in twelve minutes without a little help from the opposing blueliners.
Tom Gilbert made Justin Williams look silly, making his move from outside the circle and getting to the net, but Regehr and Doughty were both well off the goal line as Gilbert tucked the puck around Quick. That was with 4:45 left in the second, and LA couldn't hold out to intermission, as Muzzin's unsuccessful clear paved the way for Brendan Gallagher to score on a rebound. Jordan Nolan's extra two minutes for roughing Brandon Prust (who only started fighting Nolan after the ref had whistled the initial two) put the Kings on their heels, and back at even strength, Max Pacioretty snuck behind Carter, Doughty, and Regehr for a tap-in.
Montreal had played the night before, but suddenly, LA looked like the team without energy. Toffoli put a knuckler off the post with three and a half minutes, and it was beginning to look like LA had let another two points slip. They caught a huge break late, though, as Lars Eller high-sticked Doughty to set up LA's last stand: a power play, with 1:35 to go. Lots of patience led to a puck on Gaborik's stick, and setting up from next to Tokarski, he found the inches of space past the far pad to tie the game with 45 seconds left. That set the stage for him to earn his sorta-but-not-real hat trick in the shootout, and for Kopitar to seal the deal.
Anze Kopitar's game-winning goal in the shootout. ...no, really! The Kings won a shootout game! I swear! https://t.co/KCknGX9ng9— PumperNicholl (@PumperNicholl) March 6, 2015
And on top of it all off, on a night in which we broke our record for most JftC staff at one game, staff darling Muzzin got two points, and that's what really matters! (Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go avert my eyes from replays of his defensive errors.)