Penguins @ Kings Recap: LA Honors Great Scorer, Forgets to Score
Though considering they couldn't get a goal, I'm okay getting a point out of this one.
It was a festive night for the Los Angeles Kings... for a while. Instead of ending with the Kings emulating the celebration of the new statue in front of Staples, though, we had to watch Tyler Toffoli in pretty much the opposite stance.
Luc Robitaille has been honored in nearly every imaginable way in his career; Calder Trophy, Stanley Cup, number retirement, Hockey Hall of Fame membership, and perhaps most prestigious of all, a pivotal role in a Jean Claude Van Damme movie. A few years ago this kind of night would have served as the high point of the season, a momentary moment of joy in a lost year. (For example, when Robitaille's number 20 was retired in January 2007, the Kings had the league's second-worst record.) Not this year. And since (1) there have been so many "special nights" recently and (2) the main portion of Luc's honors took place well before game time and outside the arena, the Kings had no trouble focusing once the puck dropped.
How quickly did they get down to business? Marian Gaborik had a golden scoring chance in the first 30 seconds. Trevor Lewis, from his own zone, delivered a long pass which banked off the side boards and ahead of Gaborik, and with new Penguin Ben Lovejoy flat-footed, Gaborik had room to fire a wrister which was stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury. It turned out to be one of LA's best chances... along with the time where the Kings pulled the same trick later, forcing another save by Fleury on Gaborik. The first period, overall, looked best for LA on the shot sheet, where the Kings held a 12-5 advantage.
The Pens nearly matched the Kings in overall shot attempts and regularly tested the Kings' D, though, and Sidney Crosby knifed through for what was nearly a highlight-reel goal with three minutes left in the frame. After steering around Drew Doughty, though, his shot rang off the crossbar, and after a Jonathan Quick pad-stacking save on Kris Letang, the period ended scoreless. The second period, as evidenced by a look at either team's Twitter account, saw very little action. (Chances worth mentioning; Toffoli had an open net but couldn't settle a difficult rebound, and Doughty made a terrific block on a Chris Kunitz PP shot.) Good Luc-Related idea by the Kings to make the second period consist of 20 McFlurry Minutes, but they could've played that period for 20 hours without a goal.
So we moved to the third, which was even tighter (only 14 combined shots) but carried high drama and higher quality of play. The Kings thought they had finally broken the deadlock when Jake Muzzin's shot after an offensive-zone draw beat Fleury far-side, but the only reason that far side was available was that Dustin Brown inadvertently skated right into Fleury's outstretched arm. The refs immediately waved it off, and upon replay, it was crystal-clear; even the notoriously boo-happy home fans ceased all objection once the play was shown on the scoreboard. That was the closest LA would come.
Towards the final minutes both teams seemed content to let the game hit OT, though a classic Quick Misadventure behind the net nearly gifted the Penguins a winner. Instead, as had happened all game, the offensive team couldn't take advantage. 31 saves for Fleury and 16 for Quick after 60 minutes, but the goalies would only combine for one more save; Quick stopped his first shot faced. The second one? Much tougher; Jeff Carter putToffoli in a tough spot with a pass into his own slot, and Paul Martin hounded Toffoli into giving the puck away to noted King-killer Patric Hornqvist. The result: sadness.
And to think LA might have almost been confident heading into a shootout for once! It's a bit of a missed opportunity considering the Kings had Pittsburgh on a back-to-back, but Fleury was great and Hornqvist didn't miss when LA gave away a huge OT chance. It means that the Kings remain on the outside looking in for a little longer; back at it Tuesday in Colorado.