Carolina Hurricanes center Martin Necas (88) skates the puck in the defensive zone during the second period of an NHL game between the New York Islanders and the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, NC, on October 11, 2019.
The Kings faced a test on Saturday afternoon which the Ducks failed a couple of nights ago: needing to beat the Carolina Hurricanes. By measure of the score, the Kings failed the test, just as the Ducks had. But by the eye test, LA was way, way stronger than the Ducks had been, especially in the third period, where Anaheim faded.
The Kings, by contrast, just kept getting better. In period three, they outshot the ‘Canes 20-2. Neither team scored in P3 despite what you might think when hearing the 5-4 final, way out of character for teams that entered the game first in GA (1.87, Carolina) and sixth (2.44, Los Angeles).
The Kings pressed, though, and Andersen was strong. Despite the win, and turning aside that many shots, he was, let’s say, just as good as he had to be. There was never a back-breaking save of the type that gets into the opposition’s heads. Well, maybe one. Wait for that.
For his part, Kings’ netminder Cal Petersen takes away a .750 GAA on the day, a situation that will take him a while to right on the stat sheet, but none of the goals he let in were chargeable to him, in truth. The first two, in particular, were messy. The second was a fling from the blueline that redirected twice off of Carolina players out front, including off a skate. Petersen had no way of tracking it. That did make it two goals on two shots, however.
Encouragement for LA might come in the fact that they never allowed the lead by Carolina to extend more than one goal. This was no last-minute desperate comeback, but a game where each side had chances, the Kings generated a ton of shots and opportunities, and they just couldn’t put that one last one by Andersen to force a fifth tie. If there was a right word used to describe the game, it would be “battle.”
In fact, the Kings appeared to lead late in period one, but goaltender interference called back the goal after Olli Maata pretty clearly knocked Andersen out of the way and made it impossible for him to position for a save.
The game featured a very quick Adrian Kempe. You might recall my report on the prior LA game which said that he was moved down to the third line, but that the team had specifically said that it was not a demotion. On this day, Kempe found himself up on the first line with Kopitar and Arvidsson, and he took full advantage. His first goal was a tip at even strength. His second is described just below.
Neither team had a power play goal despite two chances for Carolina and four for the Kings. But LA did get a shorthanded marker, this being Kempe’s second. He intercepted a puck floating across the blueline left to right and chugged up the ice. He was being impeded, so rather than trying for a full shot, he kind of directed the puck with a push through the goalie’s legs almost on the ice.
He explained this after, including an interesting comment on the pre-scout that told him what to do: “I just tried to read, the puck was bouncing . . . . I just tried to shoot five-hole. Our goalie coach had a good pre-scout, so I was thinking that if I had a breakaway I was shooting five-hole anyways, so it was open.”
Backing up a bit, things looked to start ominously for LA, when Carolina got a 1-0 lead at 3:00 of the first period. LA shrugged it off with a tieing goal at 4:38. The teams would trade goals all night long until Carolina scored the fifth and LA could not respond. The first trade came ten seconds after the LA first goal, that by Lizotte. Ten seconds later, Derek Stepan scored. Three goals in less than two minutes combined, that made, and three within the first five minutes of puck drop.
The first Kempe goal came later in the first, and period one ended 2-2. Kempe now has six goals in the last eight games; previously he had one in nine. After the game, he said “I think we had good looks, spent a lot of time in their zone, and got a lot of shots.” But he said the game got away from them in the end, “Disappointing, to be sure. Obviously our defensive part wasn’t the best tonight, and that’s something we’ve got to clean up.”
He added, “We were a little disappointed with the effort. The offense was there but the defense wasn’t really.”
Period two featured all the additional scoring in a game in which the Kings wildly outshot their opponents, 43-20.
Two other notable numbers for Los Angeles were the 46 of Blake Lizotte and the 48 of Brendan Lemieux. Lizotte scored his first goal of the season, and Lemieux had a goal and an assist, playing on a line rounded out by Arthur Kaliyev.
Lizotte said he was happy with his play and his linemates’ play after the game. “Tonight we actually made quite a few plays that weren’t our staple of being simple. That’s just getting more confident with each other, and hopefully we’ll continue that going forward.”
All night long, starting with Kaliyev early in the first, they directed pucks to the net and formed a crowd in front of it. Many of the 43 missiles directed at the ‘Canes net were in fact put-backs after saves on initial shots.
The Lemiuex goal is a perfect example of that. He and Kaliyev had a failed rush, but Lemieux hung around in front of the net. Matt Roy slapped a puck to the net and Lemieux swept it around and in. The Roy shot had hit him, and he grabbed the puck and did his work with it.
He backed it up with a one-timer early in the third period that Andersen got with his glove, a beautiful save and the best of the night. No doubt the most important, too, as it kept the game 5-4 for Carolina. Iafallo similarly tested Andersen early in P3, with a blocker save the result.
Kempe might have had a hat trick on a “year’s-best” type chance. He was in front of the net and got a shot. It came back to him, and he reached backwards between his legs with his stick and directed the puck back on net, missing by an inch along the ice, hitting the outside post.
The Kings play again tomorrow, a 7pm start versus Arizona. They will sleep in their own beds for a good long stretch of November, with their last away game being November 13th, and their next away contest coming December 5th. That’s a 7-game home stand.
The team knows full well what a disaster it would be to take Arizona lightly after having played Washington and Carolina so hard in close but losing efforts.
Martin Necas scored the winning goal, which is why you see his image as the lead to this story. Carolina featured five different goal scorers in the game. Just two players had more than one point: Derek Stepan and Sebastian Aho, each with a goal and an assist. This despite every goal having two assists credited with it.
The Kings might have Drew Doughty back sooner rather than later. He went down with a knee injury on October 22nd, and was thought to be gone for six weeks. Barely four, he was skating in a red non-contact sweater and socks this week and is hoped to be back two weeks ahead of schedule. He continues to try to make his case to be a part of the Canadian Olympic team.
Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.