LA Kings vs Toronto Maple Leafs Game 13 Recap: Too Close for Comfort

The Kings nearly blow a 5-0 lead but hang on long enough to secure two points.

Phew, that was a close one! What a wild roller coaster of a game.

Much like the St. Louis Blues, the Los Angeles Kings faced another tough opponent in the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re a young, fast, very skilled team with the occasional lapse that comes with being relatively inexperienced.

A penalty shot (bad call), a last second laser, and a power play goal made things interesting in the final 40 minutes but the veteran Kings team gutted this one out for the win and the two points. Oh, and every single skater owes Jonathan Quick dinner for the next, like, month. Holy. Moly. I have no idea what this dude is eating for breakfast, but he’s bringing his A-game every single night and he basically kept his team in this one. Just look at the corsis.

(I’m using corsi instead of simply shots as a way of demonstrating how much time the Leafs spent in the attacking zone). Not great, Bob. The Kings really owe Quick big time.

In any case, it was an enjoyable first 34 minutes. The Kings jumped out to an early 2-0 lead within the first five minutes. Michael Amadio gets his first NHL goal off the rush with a gorgeous wrist shot that beat Curtis McElhenny clean. Roman Polak made a simple cross-ice pass to Jake Gardiner who simply lost an edge and ended up turning the puck over to Tanner Pearson. Pearson, at the end of his shift, recognized fresh legs coming on and passed the puck to a streaking Amadio, who had enough time to pick his shot.

Staples Center shitty ice: 1; Toronto Maple Leafs: 0.

Alex Iafallo very nearly got his first NHL a minute later when Derek Forbort hit him in stride with a very long pass but alas, he was foiled by the backup goalie. Someday! We will keep repeating that until it actually happens. So close.

James van Riemsdyk took an offensive zone slashing penalty shortly thereafter to put the Kings on the power play. The first about 45 seconds of the advantage wasn’t looking super great. But the first unit kept at it like dogs with a bone and finally Dustin Brown pounced on a rebound, skated with the puck away from the net and subsequently drew all attention to himself before sending a perfect pass to Michael Cammalleri for an easy tap-in goal.

And just like that, less than five minutes in, the Kings are up 2-0. Dave Joseph hadn’t even finished announcing Cammalleri’s goal when Brooks Laich took a penalty. A really dumb slashing penalty 200 ft away from his own net and a good 10 ft away from the puck. In any case, LA successfully killed off the #6 ranked power play yielding only one shot on goal (and even taking one of their own) when Laich was called for interference.

Now this one is a bit odd. He stepped out of the penalty box but he still had one skate inside and he tried to play the puck. According to rule 56.2, that’s interfering with the play (emphasis mine).

A minor penalty shall be imposed on any identifiable player on the players’ bench or penalty bench who, by means of his stick or his body, interferes with the movements of the puck or any opponent on the ice during the progress of the play. In addition, should a player about to come onto the ice, play the puck while one or both skates are still on the players’ or penalty bench, a minor penalty for interference shall be assessed.

Anze Kopitar won the ensuing faceoff to start the kill and Brown even got off a shot, though he couldn’t beat McElhenny. The Kings had nearly finished killing the penalty when Mitch Marner and a slew of other Leafs batted at the puck down low that Quick was somehow able to keep out. How, I don’t know. White magic, maybe. In any case, it was amazing. Scary, but amazing.

The rest of the period was pretty tight and it looked for all the world that LA would take their 2-0 lead into the dressing room during the first intermission. But Trevor Lewis had other plans, scoring his fourth goal in 13 games. If he keeps this up, that puts him on a torrid pace of about 28-30 goals this season. Hey, hey, don’t crush my dreams. Or Thx Bud’s. This was just a great shift by that line. Dogged, relentless pursuit of the puck by all three forwards on the ice, which resulted in something good. Nick Shore seemed to have all the time in the world with the goalie possibly down but instead, he sent a perfect feed over to Lewis who even had time to corral the puck, take a breath, and still beat McElhenny. Sometimes good things happen when you just SHOOT.

Andy Andreoff, why are you? Why is this a thing? Listen. He’s a great grit guy. He’s awesome at being a heavy player that’s defensively responsible (ish). But his hands make Lewis look like... well, Sidney Crosby. With 8 seconds left on the clock, Andreoff found himself standing in front of a yawning cage. It couldn’t get any easier than this. Simple tap in, boom, he has his first goal of the season. Except life doesn’t work that way and neither do his hands.

Okay, TO BE FAIR, the puck was bouncing and rolling. Maybe he felt a little panicked and wanted to try and something happen as soon as possible; or maybe not. I don’t know what was in his head. Lewis’s reaction says it all, though.

So the period ended with the Kings feeling pretty darn good about themselves and the Leafs maybe not as much. But you know, there was still 40 minutes to play and a Mike Babcock team that wasn’t going to just pack it in and go home.

There wasn’t much to speak of for the first 10 minutes of the period. It was fairly even and then the Leafs slowly started to take over, both territorially and in shot attempts. However, blessed Polak for all his greatness decided to take a dumb interference penalty, giving LA not only another chance to pad their lead but some breathing room. And boy did they take advantage.  Some crisp puck movement led to a Pearson to Toffoli near the goal line goal. It actually looked remarkably similar to Lewis’s goal at the end of the first.

The biggest difference is that McElhenny had trouble coming across and then got his stick caught in the web of the net so the puck actually bounced up and over his shoulder and into the net. Some days you just get lucky. (That would be good fortune in Toffoli’s case).

Evidently very jealous of his linemates’ success, Adrian Kempe had to get on the score sheet.

OK you have to watch the full video because a gif just doesn’t do it justice. Drew Doughty prevents a zone entry with a smartly timed pinch along the boards and Pearson comes in to scoop up the loose puck. Off to the races they go. Kempe was already in his own blue line but beats out a Leafs player who is actually closer to Pearson than he is. After receiving the pass from Pearson, Kempe splits the D and draws all the attention to himself (and technically a penalty). Toffoli catches everyone unaware with a good pass from Kempe to bury his second of the game two minutes after his power play goal.

This new iteration of the 70s line is proving to be something beautiful. Kempe showed off some great puck protection skills on this play and he doesn’t appear to be a defensive liability to his teammates while also giving them a skilled center to play with. Hopefully Jeff Carter was watching all his adorable blond children with great pride last night.

With the period winding down, the referees, who had been all over this game, decided to make themselves an even bigger part. There was 2:10 left in the period and Auston Matthews got a breakaway. Kopitar gave chase and left his stick parallel to the ice. The back referee, who had the worst angle to see this, decided that constituted a hooking call. Oh, but not just a penalty—a penalty shot. It definitely has to go down as one of the worst calls so far this season (but not the worst since the Colorado Avalanche had their goal taken away, though this was basically given to the Leafs).

People may try to argue that Quick should’ve stopped Matthews on the penalty shot. No. Just. No. Don’t even go there. This was basically a gifted goal from the start. The front referee, closest to the play and who had the best view, fell down and the back referee wanted to make sure that Toronto had a fighting chance in this game, apparently.

OK seriously, who’s stopping that shot? Breaking the shutout really turned the tide of the game. By all accounts, it seemed as if the Kings would head into the locker room thoroughly irritated but still leading by four. Except, Morgan Rielly had other plans. Forbort was engaged in a board battle and Doughty kind of stopped skating for the last couple seconds of the period. His lapse in attention allowed the Leafs to dig out the puck and get it to a completely unmarked Rielly to bring Toronto within three. John Stevens, defensive maestro that he is, will not be happy with that play.

The third period was all Leafs all the time. The Kings really went into a defensive shell and tried to just hang on for the last 20 minutes. Each play in their own end was very careful and they just really didn’t want to let anyone in white near the center of the ice. It mostly worked except for when Pearson got his stick into the hands of Connor Brown and was whistled for a slashing call.

The Leafs’ top-10 ranked power play went back to work and finally got a goal. After a lot of movement in that high umbrella, the puck finally made it to the center of the ice where Connor Brown deflected it past Quick.

So then it was nervous time as Toronto poured on the pressure. Zach Hyman did LA a huge favor by holding onto Dustin Brown just inside his own blue line. Kopitar and Brown very nearly scored another power play goal but Kopitar was robbed by McElhenny at the side of the net.

Wow! Look at that pass by Brown!

Babcock pulled McElhenny with 2:20 to go in the game for a 6v5 advantage. Just under 90 seconds to go, Jake Muzzin intentionally knocked the net off its moorings resulting in another Matthews penalty shot. Penalties aren’t allowed to be served in the final two minutes of the game so it becomes a penalty shot with the aggrieved team selecting whichever shooter they want and they picked Matthews. This time Quick seemed to get a piece of it.

His hyper aggressive style actually seemed to work in his favor here. Remarkable, really.

The Leafs pulled McElhenny again but ultimately weren’t able to get any closer to scoring. Following Matthews’ penalty shot, the Leafs had only one attempt in the final minute and it ended up going wide. It was far too tight for Kings fans’ comfort at the end, but they held on and got the win.