The Los Angeles Kings played a near perfect game en route to a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on “Ryan Smyth Mullet Night” at the Staples Center on Saturday night. It was the first time the Preds had lost in LA since October 23, 2007.
Smyth played in his 1000th career NHL game and was the center of attention for most of the night. The team honored him with all the players wearing mullet wigs during the pre-game skate. His family and 70 others traveled to the game to honor the occasion.
It was hard to determine if the Kings were totally dominant or if the Predators played with very little heart, especially in front of the defensive net. The reality is that it was a combination of the two.
The Kings got goals from Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Ryan Smyth, and Jarret Stoll. Kopitar and Brown added assists for two point nights. Justin Williams had two assists.
Jonathan Bernier came within 2:24 of having his second shutout in two career games against the Predators until it was ruined by a goal from Shane O’Brien.
Pekka Rinne had another poor outing as he gave up four goals on 22 shots in half the game after giving up nine goals in the last two games. Anders Lindback stopped all nine shots he faced in relief in 29:13 minutes of play.
The Predator defense gave Rinne little support as they appeared to be half a step behind the Kings all evening. The Kevin Klein-Shane O’Brien pairing were particularly ineffective as they were on the ice for three of the Kings four goals.
The Kings got off to a quick start and went ahead 1-0 at 4:11 when Kopitar fired a wrister past the glove of Rinne on a shot that should have been easily handled.
Things went further downhill for Rinne when Dustin Brown put a shot into the net at 13:00. It was slightly deflected by Shane O’Brien but was still one that should have been stopped.
To Rinne’s credit, he did have a highlight reel save on Smyth at 15:05 during a Kings power play that was caused by Joel Ward tripping Kopitar at 14:08.
The first period ended with the Kings out shooting the Preds 11-7 while trailing the Corsi 20-18. Los Angeles played a very up tempo first period and the Preds appeared to be a bit slower which led to both goals.
Smyth made up for the goal that he was denied earlier at 6:47 in the second period. Smythe stopped the puck beside the crease while Rinne had been drawn out of the blue ice by the prior action leaving an open net for Smyth to have an easy flip for the goal.
Rinne’s night ended at 10:47 when Jarret Stoll put a shot in net that Pekka never had a chance to stop. The initial shot on goal from Jack Johnson was totally screened by Smyth who was in Rinne’s face. Rinne never recovered to be in a position to stop the second shot. Anders Lindback entered the game after the goal.
Even though the Predators started the second period with a few more scoring chances, they were still out shot by the Kings 14-11. The Preds led the Corsi 26-18 with much of the difference coming early in the period.
In the third period, O’Brien broke the Bernier shutout with 2:25 left in the game when he fired a full slap shot into the next from the right face off circle. It was too little too late as O’Brien was a minus 3 before the goal.
The Preds out shot the Kings 8-6 in the final period and led the Corsi 16-12 as the Kings focused on defense to protect the big lead.
The Predators have now lost four games in a row and their record fell to 5-4-3 as they plummet from the top of the standings in the West toward the bottom of the heap. The Kings are now 10-3 and are firmly in first place in the Western Conference.
The Predators will have to regroup quickly as they head cross town to Orange County for a 7 p.m. Central meeting with the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.