Recap, Avalanche @ Kings: LA imposes their will, cruises to 5-0 victory

The Kings return home to win their fourth straight, extending Colorado’s winless streak to nine.

For the second night in a row, the Kings faced one of the worst teams in the league. After barely putting away the Coyotes in Arizona, then traveling back to Los Angeles to face a Colorado Avalanche squad that is hungry to avoid the embarrassment of a nine-game losing streak, you would have forgiven the Kings for coming out a bit flat on the second game of a back-to-back. Fortunately, Colorado looked for all the world like a team that is dead last in the league and the Kings put them away quickly and efficiently.

[Box Score]

The Kings set the tone early, gaining the zone and putting immediate pressure on rookie goaltender Spencer Martin. Anze Kopitar went to work on the half wall, shoveling the puck to Dustin Brown, who took it to the front of the net. After a short scramble, Martin could not freeze the puck before Marian Gaborik tucked home the game’s first goal.

In an effort to swing momentum (or perhaps out of sheer desperation), Colorado attempted to beat the Kings at their own game. John Mitchell retaliated against Brayden McNabb after he delivered a bone-crushing check on Rene Bourque.

McNabb was happy to oblige Mitchell’s invitation to dance, though any momentum gained by sticking up for his teammate was immediately washed out as he received an additional instigator penalty, putting the Kings on the power play just two minutes into a game in which they already led, 1-0.

Failing to cash in on their first man advantage, the Kings were opportunistic on their second power play after Dustin Brown drew a slashing penalty from Nathan MacKinnon. In textbook fashion, Kopitar won the face-off back to Jake Muzzin, where he and Drew Doughty played catch while their forwards took position. With Tanner Pearson providing the screen, Muzzin got the puck to the right guy.

It had been four whole games since Jeff Carter has scored a goal in a contest that counted, so you knew he was due. Apparently he was still hungry, as he rushed the net ten minutes later to tuck in a loose puck and put his team in cruise control. Carter’s 26th goal of the year leapt him ahead of Alex Ovechkin, putting him only two behind league leader Sidney Crosby.

After being humiliated the night before in Anaheim, Colorado showed some life in the second period. The added pressure resulted in the Kings taking back-to-back penalties. It looked as though noted Kings-killer Jarome Iginla had put his team on the board, but the officials immediately waived off the goal due to Blake Comeau running into Peter Budaj. Colorado challenged the call, but it was clear the contact prevented Budaj from moving across his crease.

We should not take for granted that Budaj was excellent once again. While seeing very little action in the first period, he maintained his focus and turned away the few quality chances Colorado sent his way during the penalty kill. As the penalty was set to expire, Anze Kopitar was called for hooking. With the Kings’ best defensive forward in the box, this would be Colorado’s best chance to get back in the game. Instead, the Kings had two outnumbered attacks during the penalty kill, both led by Jeff Carter.

Colorado seemingly packed it in after that and the Kings went into shut-down mode in the third period. Just as the Kings’ third power play of the night had expired, the second unit got on the board with yet another workman-like goal. With traffic in front of the net, Kevin Gravel sent a wrist shot towards the goal that was expertly deflected by Brown, extending the Kings’ lead to 4-0. Halfway through the period, Spencer Martin’s third career game turned into a full-blown nightmare as Dwight King banked home a flukey goal from behind the net.

The rookie has now allowed 13 goals in his three starts, resulting in an .865 save percentage. On the other end, Budaj made easy work of his former team, turning away all 22 shots to extend his career high shutout total to six. He now boasts a .922 save percentage, tied for ninth in the league with Carey Price and Matt Murray. This is no fluke, as he also ranks third in the league in total ice time. I think it is safe to stop wondering if the Kings are going to trade for a goaltender.

The Kings executed their plan against a clearly inferior opponent. None of the goals were pretty, they just followed the old “throw it at the net” adage and it worked to perfection. They maintain their one point lead on the Calgary Flames, who notched five goals of their own in an upset victory over the Minnesota Wild. With two games in hand on the Flames, the Kings’ most difficult work is ahead of them as they head back to the east coast for four games, starting with a daytime tilt on Saturday in Philadelphia.