What we know about the Los Angeles Kings’ performance on Wednesday night with Ottawa on town: all the right guys scored the goals and notched the assists. What we also know: those goals came at the right time. But what will not likely be soon forgotten: that the Kings blew a three-goal lead gained in the first period and had to battle back to achieve an OT victory, 4-3.
The team was comfortably ahead at the first intermission, with Ottawa down by a trio of goals. They were still up after two, though the Sens had gotten one back. Then it was the old chip-away process, where the Senators scored in the first five minutes of period three. (It was thus, to cite a famous Sutter-ism briefly a 3-2 league on this evening.) But they also got one in the last five minutes, making the game a tie with about four and a half minutes remaining.
So Ottawa gets a point out of it, which makes no difference to the LA team nor to its coach, except that Daryl Sutter isn’t the kind of guy to let a sloppy defensive game go unremarked upon.
But he wouldn’t admit that the team nearly blew it after the game, saying instead, “Seven goals were scored. . . . ,” a way of indicating the quality of effort on both sides. He talked further about how the team got its power play goals, and saying that the Kings knew that the referee would eventually even out the PP chances (the team was dinged for three power plays against in the third period). The idea here? That the fact that the LA team let down and saw the game tied and having to go into OT was just the breaks, not indicative of a breakdown. What he did not say was that Ottawa also took three penalties in the third, so that kind of washed out, and thus exposes the flaw in the logic of his justification for the Kings having to take the game past sixty minutes.
Further explaining the near loss, Sutter added his zinger to the media: “Now you’re getting into stats. You guys need to listen to what you’re told. If you’re not watching, instead of reading, listen. Better.” In other words, don’t bother trying to get me to criticize the team. We won. Did this make perfect sense? What kind of question is that?
But if you want the good news, here’s some: while the lone goal scored on Monday night was by Jake Muzzin, on Wednesday, the tallies came from Brown, with two, and Carter, with two, including the OT winner. Further, the team got three of its four on the power play. All of the points, and there were nine, went to four LA players: Carter, Brown, Richards, and Kopitar. In other words, the guys who you’re expecting to score on a nightly basis.
Speaking of Muzzin, Sutter said after practice on Tuesday, “There’s a lot of pressure on him, and he’s not quite prepared for those situations yet.” It was not a huge surprise, then, that Muzzin was on the sidelines against the Senators. In his place, Alec Martinez logged eighteen minutes, fourth of the six defensemen on thc ice this night. Leading that charge, perhaps naturally enough, was Drew Doughty, with 26:30 TOI.
Martinez, starting his first game of the year, contributed two shots to the offensive effort of 32 by the team on the evening. Sutter commented on him, “I thought he played well for us . . . hopefully when he finds a bit of confidence, he can sustain that.”
Also out of the LA lineup, Trevor Lewis. Daniel Carcillo was his replacement, though as you might imagine, his presence didn’t light the team on fire. When it comes to new offensive faces who do that, look right at Matt Frattin. (Of course, where else might you look, since the rest of the team is the same as it has been.)
On Frattin, Matt Greene commented after the game, “You get speed down the wings, it’s harder to defend against.” Sutter, Monday night, had praised Frattin as the best forward on the ice, but read that like this: “I’m not getting much out of my regulars, so I’ll just dangle a compliment to the new guy and see what happens.” As noted above, it worked, because they produced on this evening. Sutter was also complimentary of the player in his post-game comments.
Jeff Carter explained the improved play of the group by saying that the team didn’t have to change much since Monday but that it was a matter of execution. What does that fluffy sentence suggest? That they were close Monday. They weren’t. The defensive part of the game was horrible, and it wasn’t just the turnovers that hurt. It was the essentially free reign that Rick Nash and Brad Richards had in whirling all over the offensive zone.
The Sens are not that kind of team, precisely, though their new star, Bobby Ryan, was visible all night long in his one goal and one assist effort. He had two shots on the evening, while three Senators had three, including Michalek, who got the team’s third goal. Pageau, he of the playoff superstardom against the Habs, had the other one.
Sutter summed up the positives of the game by saying, “Geez, a win’s a win. You gotta see something positive in that.” He added, “Brown scored, Carter scored a couple,” citing the very guys he had ignored, on purpose, the other night. Of Carter, he said, “Carter scores a goal standing in front . . . that’s a physical player. He competes like hell to score.”
So the erasure of the near-collapse begins, and apparently, those who saw things another way were just looking at the wrong thing, That’s fine for now, and onlookers will let Sutter have his way as long as the team keeps winning. Blow another large early lead, though, and the tune will change. Then, it’s going to be more like, “Hey, we were watching, and your team didn’t keep up its effort.”
Kings and Sens Notes
The Senators haven’t won in LA since 2000. The record now stands at 12-1-1 in LA’s favor since that time.
The Kings now head to Carolina for the first game of four on the far East coast. The good news? They’re playing some weaker teams, including Carolina, Florida, and Tampa Bay, and so should come out of the trip with some points in the bank.
This article was compiled with the help of media notes and reports.