Recap: A Quick Loss to Nashville

No, I don't mean the game felt quick. That was a pun. Har har.

Our own HailRover may be many things, but dumb sure isn't one of them. So when our intrepid recapper saw the Nashville Predators on the way into Staples for another ~sure to be exciting~ matchup with the LA Kings, he did what he did last time: made up a story and passed the recap on to someone else. He could have at least come up with a plausible-sounding story to cover his absence, however. I mean, who would make a bowl out of roses? That is not a sturdy container at all!

So once again I'm here to talk about the Kings and the Perds, the Perds and the Kings. Last time around, Jonathan Quick almost single-handily beat them in Nashville. The Kings were out-attempted in that game 61-56 (49-36 at evens), outshot 35-30, and overall just besieged by Nashville all over the ice. But Quick stood tall, making several highlight reel saves, and the Kings ultimately prevailed over them 2-1 in a shootout. As we all would soon find out, Quick apparently felt really bad about that act of larceny he committed in Nashville, and would repay the Preds for it....with interest.

[Box Score]

Of course, the big news entering last night's game were the twin call-ups of Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey (due to a mysterious Jeff Carter injury). Toffoli & Vey both came straight off the top line of the 8-1-1-2 Manchester Monarchs, with gaudy point totals of 7-5-12 and 3-8-11 (or both better than a point-per-game), respectively. So obviously it made sense when Vey was....not dressed in this game at all. Oh, okay, sure.

But the Kings weren't the only ones dealing with injuries. Nashville's starting goaltender Pekka Rinne has been on the shelf since the third week of October due to a hip infection, a complication from his off-season hip surgery. That's obviously bad news for the Predators, who don't score a lot of goals and thus rely even more heavily on their star goaltender than most teams. Backup Carter Hutton had appeared in only one NHL game prior to this season, in 2012-13 with the Chicago Blackhawks. He's been doing his best, but he's no Pekka Rinne. So you would think the advantage in goal heading into this game would rest squarely with the Kings and their goalie who had already stolen 2 points from the Preds earlier this very season. You may want to highlight that sentence somehow and then go back and read it again once you've finished this recap, because it will be hilarious.

So the puck dropped at Staples, and about seven minutes into the first period the most interesting thing that had happened so far was the Fox Sports West clock breaking. Yes, it was yet another exciting chapter of Kings-Perds, with all the non-chances and non-action you've come to expect. But don't worry folks, because Dan Carcillo knew just how to spice things up: kneeing! That's right, Carbomb got 2 minutes for kneeing Roman Josi, then pretty much got his ass kicked by ex-King Richard Clune (no goals and 2 assists in 14 games!) in the resulting fight. Luckily for the Kings, Clune got an extra two minutes for instigating, keeping Nashville's power play off the ice for the moment. And in retrospect, thank you very much Rich Clune.

Alas, that Nashville power play would get their chance a few minutes later, as Slava Voynov went off for tripping Eric Nystrom. And it would take the Predators less than a minute to score the first goal of the game, as David Legwand drove hard to the net with Patric Hornqvist providing a screen. The Kings PK looked sloppy and Quick once again allowed a power play goal, continuing two recent trends. The Kings would nearly tie it up about 14 minutes into the 1st, as Mike Richards drew a hooking call on Nick Spaling. After Anze Kopitar jumped onto the ice as the extra attacker, Tyler Toffoli would wind up with the puck in the high slot and fired off a powerful wrister, only to get stoned by Hutton. The Kings would follow up that great chance by going on the power play and doing.....absolutely nothing, beginning another running theme for the evening: terrible power plays! The Kings had almost no luck gaining the zone at all, with all of their jump and momentum that had been building at even strength and 6-on-5 seemingly evaporating immediately. But hey, at least FS West finally fixed the clock during that power play, so small victories!

Late into the first period, Kyle Clifford got whistled for boarding, allegedly (it was a very weak call). And since it was a power play they probably didn't deserve, Nashville of course immediately scored on it. Hornqvist held on to the puck forever at the side of the net and somehow everyone forgot about Shea Weber, who ended up with basically a tap-in to give the Preds a 2-0 lead. But just when this game looked like it was about to slip away from them, the Kings answered back. Jake Muzzin, who was all over the ice in this game (leading the team with 6 SOG), fired a shot that was stopped by Hutton, but the rebound was there for Anze Kopitar to bang home, and the Kings got on the board. Nashville's lead was cut in half just 17 seconds after their second power play goal, and the Kings looked like they had some life heading into the 2nd.

Muzzin continued his strong play by stopping a charging Craig Smith early in that frame, poking the puck away from as he attacked with speed. But Matt Frattin continued another proud tradition of the 2013-14 LA Kings: offensive zone penalties. He got called for hooking Roman Josi while trying to steal the puck away from him (actually, he succeeded in doing so and ended up with a breakaway that Hutton stopped even though it wouldn't have counted, as neither of them appeared to hear the referee's whistle). That put the 2 for 2 Preds power play back on the ice, but thankfully this time the Kings managed to kill it off.

Suddenly, word came down from the announcers that Jarrett Stoll was missing. Indeed, Stoll had missed several shifts in the 2nd already and was nowhere to be found on the bench, and it would later be announced that he had suffered an injury of some kind (we didn't even get an upper- or lower-body, as I guess the Kings were still feeling the heat of Cartergate), was being evaluated, and was unlikely to return. So that sucked, I guess. Not much happened for most of the 2nd- KINGS AND PERDS WOO- until about fifteen minutes in, when Justin Williams & Dwight King would end up with a clear-cut 2-on-1. With the Nashville defender effectively taking away the pass and Williams seeing a great deal of cage to the goalie's right, he elected to shoot it.....but missed the net. The Kings would then finally get a second chance on the power play when Viktor Stalberg threw a weird jumping hit from behind on Trevor Lewis a few minutes later and got called for boarding. But the Kings' PP remained a steaming pile of hot garbage and the Kings were unable to generate a single shot on goal, and they went into the 3rd period still in a 2-goal hole against a Nashville team they had largely outplayed (and outshot at that point 24-11).

So the third period got underway with Dustin Brown reunited with Kopitar & Williams, as King moved down to play with Richards & Toffoli. Despite these changes and some good shifts the Kings were unable to beat Hutton, but things would change about halfway through the period. Dustin Brown threw the puck on net from a weird angle, and Justin Williams appeared to tip it past Hutton to move the Kings back within a goal again! The goal was later determined to be Brown's as Williams apparently didn't get a stick on it after all, but regardless, the Kings were right back in this game. They continued swarming the Predators and a few minutes later it resulted in another Nashville penalty, as Ryan Ellis got whistled for holding Dan Carcillo, of all people. Tyler Toffoli was put onto the top power play unit and made a huge impact almost immediately, as he made a nice move right through the slot and fired a beautiful wrister on goal, stopped by Hutton. But Mike Richards was waiting in the crease to jam the rebound home, tying the game up at 3 11:18 into the period!

The Kings had come back to tie a game they probably should never have been losing in the first place, scoring 2 goals in the span of 1:37. But Nashville, who had gone a full 15:38 in-between shots on goal, had a secret plan to win this game: Jonathan Quick's feelings. Quick, remember, had stolen the last game in Nashville, a game the Kings had no business winning, and he apparently decided it was time to make things right. So with about four minutes left to play in regulation, the Predators cleanly won a face-off in the offensive zone, leading to a shot by Mattias Ekholm and a huge rebound for David Legwand to put home for his second goal of the game. The Predators, after all that, were right back in the lead, 4-3.

Los Angeles, to their credit, didn't exactly roll up into the fetal position and have themselves a good cry about this cruel twist of fate (which is basically what I did, tbh). The Kings had roughly a zillion good chances to tie the game for a third time, but repeatedly shanked the puck on almost all of them. Slava Voynov did actually put stick to puck for a nice one-timer that was stopped by Hutton, as confused fans in attendance wondered what this whole "big save for your team when they need it the most" thing was. With the extra attacker, Anze Kopitar had an open side of the cage but was unable to find the puck in his skates in time, and ultimately the Kings would lose a heartbreaker, 4-3, in regulation.

So the Kings got zero points in a game where they should have gotten two, a refrain that should be well-known to Kings fans by now. Let there be no confusion where the blame should lie for losing this game: Jonathan Quick had a cool .767 sv% in this game (4 goals on 17 shots) and an even cooler .000 scoring chance sv% (the only scoring chance of the game Nashville didn't score on missed the net). Quick wasn't tested often, went very long stretches without facing a shot, and just didn't come up with *any* saves the few times the Kings really needed him to. The Kings outshot the Predators (38-17), out-attempted the Predators (78-35! 68-31 at evens!), and just plain outplayed the Predators all over the ice. The only thing that kept them from winning this game was their goalie, who OH BY THE WAY now has a sub-.900 sv% for the season. Not good, not good at all. He's the only part of the Kings' game that should really worry anyone right now, especially with Toffoli looking so good in his first game back, Vey still waiting in the press box to get his shot, Jeff Carter coming back from IR at some point, and Tanner Pearson still available to call up from Manchster. The Kings haven't looked this deep at forward in a long time, are probably good enough on defense, but look really, really shaky in net. Quick probably won't stay below .900 for long, and the Kings are good enough to win with even league-average goaltending, but they want and should expect more from their star goaltender who is being paid as such. Time will tell whether or not they actually get it.

(By the way, in a programming note: my This Week in Kings weekly recap is moving days, from Sunday to Monday. So this week's edition will go up tomorrow and cover the last eight days of the Pacific instead of the usual seven, and after that we'll just be going Monday-Monday instead of Sunday-Sunday like we have in the past. Sound good? Well, I hope so, because it's happening anyway. See you tomorrow!)

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