Recap: LA (Momentarily) Overcomes Anaheim's Late-Game Magic

A late goal by Justin Williams gives LA a crucial point, but this time, they concede the winner <em>before</em> the shootout.

Why do we even bother watching the first two periods of games between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks at this point?

[Box Score]

It's Game #70 of the 2014-15 regular season. The Kings need every point they can get. So it's weird being pleased with one point after a 3-2 loss in OT, especially when a second point was right there for the taking. After some of the games against Anaheim this season, though, it felt inevitable that the Ducks would overcome LA's measly one-goal lead, and even recovering for a single goal once Anaheim took their lead was a weirdly satisfying feeling. That satisfaction might have also been mixed with a slight feeling of injustice for LA's players after Anaheim won the game in overtime, though veterans Dustin Brown and Justin Williams weren't making too many excuses. There were two goals at issue; in each case, there's plenty of blame to go elsewhere.

The loudest protests came after the second, go-ahead goal from the Ducks. Jonathan Quick added to a long history of post-goal fits when Nate Thompson found his way into the crease, impairing his ability to stop Jakub Silfverberg's goal on a rebound of an Andrew Cogliano shot. On replay, though, Quick didn't really have a leg to stand on; Jake Muzzin pushed Thompson in Quick's direction to begin with, and if Thompson did make contact with Quick, it probably wasn't enough for a goaltender interference anyway. That came 7:35 into the third; the Kings' narrow 1-0 lead had already been erased by a slick Ryan Getzlaf pass to Patrick Maroon, so that put LA behind.

The protests after the third goal were considerably more muted, but in hindsight, it was probably a more egregious non-call. Keep an eye on Hampus Lindholm, as Drew Doughty attempts to follow Ryan Kesler as he loops around the corner...

Marian Gaborik is following Lindholm very closely, and when Lindholm runs into Doughty, Gaborik gets caught up too. That's two defenders in that area eliminated, and when Kesler has that much time, he can get his shot past Robyn Regehr and Jonathan Quick. It's a pick (and a really smart pick, to be honest) by Lindholm, but the combination of overtime-style whistling and the presence of Gaborik in the area make it understandable why the call wasn't made. As Brown said, even if there was a pick, it wasn't dealt with well. Period.

The only reason the game made it to OT, though, was that LA refused to... what's the phrase... "go quietly away." The Kings got seventeen shots in the third, though they were having trouble getting anything at close range. Were. Jake Muzzin (he giveth, and he taketh away) got down below the goal line with under five minutes left and dodged Rickard Rakell's attempt to knock him off the puck. After Trevor Lewis drew one Duck out of the crease, Muzzin delivered a perfect pass to Williams in front. Williams poked it past John Gibson to turn a potentially soul-crushing regulation loss into a merely exasperating one, though if LA had managed to score on the ensuing four minutes of consistent pressure before the third period buzzer, we'd all be in a much better mood.

There was stuff before those believe it or not... 40 minutes of stuff, in fact. Real quick:

  • The first period revolved around one event: this hit by Brown on Corey Perry. Anaheim's retaliation sent two players to the penalty box, and even with Brown also getting two minutes, it gave LA an early opportunity. One beautiful zone entry by Anze Kopitar, one top-corner shot by Jeff Carter, and LA was up. Anaheim played well in the first but couldn't beat Quick on any of their eleven shots on goal.
  • The scoreless second period had a few chances for each team, though Gibson and Quick has a smaller combined workload. Cogliano (a PK terror tonight) had a couple dangerous chances go begging, while Kopitar had a pass from Marian Gaborik whiz by him before he could react in front. Getzlaf looked dangerous for a while, and Rickard Rakell fanned on a glorious chance, but as they do, the Ducks waited until the third period to erase the deficit.

The season series ends 4-1 in favor of the Ducks, though it's rather deceptive. Let's just say I'd still be okay facing these guys in the playoffs, though we need more Game 7-style leads to feel really confident.