Stars @ Kings Recap: The Tortoise By a Hair
The Kings had their first meeting against the slumping Stars. Despite the slump, it was still the league leading offense and proved to be a good defensive test.
It's no secret that the Dallas Stars' offense got off to a torrential pace to start the season. With LA being a defense first-team, there would be laser focus on the Los Angeles Kings' ability to shut down some of the top Stars players: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg and Jason Spezza. I'll break the suspense and tell you the Kings held them pointless.
The game against the Stars was as frantic as you'd expect, but each period took its own identity. In the first period, the Stars were using their speed to blow through the neutral zone and beat Kings players to the puck in their own end. It took just three minutes for the Stars to score. Nick Shore may be due to look forlornly on from the press box as he simply lost his assignment on Ales Hemsky, allowing him to sneak behind the net and get the puck in before Jonathan Quick could close on the post.
At this point, we all mentally tightened our belts and got ready for the ride as Dallas continued to rush into the zone shift after shift. Luckily, the Kings are not without speed of their own, and the speed of Jeff Carter caused Klingberg to take a holding penalty against Carter as he drove the net. The Kings had scored power play goals in each of their last two games thanks to Vincent Lecavalier. Guess who scored this one?
The power play was quite the contrast from even strength play. LA was able to move the puck around the zone and keep Dallas constantly a step behind. This meant the Kings were expectantly licking their chops when Kari Lehtonen illegally played the puck (making two consecutive games in which the Kings have forced a goalie to take a penalty - can that be a new trend, please?). We saw more of the same puck movement from the Kings who maintained the zone after the powerplay expired. Kopitar fed the puck to Drew Doughty who skated in before unleashing a blast to beat Lehtonen.
In true Kings fashion, we again had a tie game just 33 seconds later when Cody Eakin shot a puck under the pads of the moving Quick. The Kings headed into the first intermission with the lead in shots simply thanks to the power play. This transitioned into a second period in which the Kings finally seemed to be able to frustrate the Stars' zone entries slightly, and the Kings were able to generate shot attempts and chances on a roughly even pace with the Stars. Amazingly, no goals would be scored in the second.
Finally, the Kings' effort blossomed into an advantage in the third. Their ability to stop zone entries transitioned into an ability to generate their own, and the Kings were generating offensive threats from nearly all of their lines. However, all of this was after the goal from Milan Lucic just five minutes into the period. The first line centered by Kopitar continues to be dangerous, and they earned their goal thanks to an extended shift. Milan Lucic even fired the goal from defenseman territory as the forwards rotated to create new looks and generate chances.
It was the lead that truly spurred the Kings' efforts, and they began generating them at a much faster pace than the Stars did. All lines had moments of brilliance and the Stars looked genuinely back on their heels at times. It wasn't until the final five minutes that the Stars were finally able to muster serious efforts to tie. Yet, they never looked truly threatening, even with six men. Whether it was defensive effort or morale collapse, the Kings clamped the game down in those final few minutes.
If this game was a battle of the top lines, then it was a victory for the Kings. Each team's top line drew the other's second in matchups, and Kopitar's line racked up eight chances on their own and were on ice to create two of the three Kings' goals. Kopitar has been on well over a point-per-game pace these past 20 games, and has snuck into the league's top 20 in scoring and top 15 in assists. No buyer's remorse here.