Small sample size. Keep in mind that this is a small sample size. That’s got to be what SoCal hockey fans are telling themselves in the light of the hot starts their two NHL teams have had. The Ducks defeated the Jets Wednesday night, 4-1. They got scoring from their recent first-round draft choice, Mason McTavish, and from veterans including Adam Henrique and Rickard Rakell.
Thursday evening, it was LA’s turn. And they, too, began with a bang, scoring a very un-Kings-like six goals with the strong Las Vegas team in town. The Golden Knights managed only two goals.
It was the start of the 18th season for Dustin Brown, former LA captain, a mark which puts him one season ahead of prior record holder Dave Taylor, whose number is retired by the team. And it marked the 1233rd game of the Brown run.
The tone of the game was set with a couple of solid hits delivered by the fourth line, first Trevor Moore then Blake Lizotte taking a piece of a Vegas player. Brendan Lemieux made up the third part of that trio.
But hitting wasn’t the story. Scoring was, and Captain Anze Kopitar did a lot of it. He had a hat trick and two assists to tally five points. This was partly aided by being on a line with Brown and Victor Arvidsson, a pure shooter whose very presence equals the threat of a pass and snipe. With him on the wing, Kopitar didn’t have to defer—so he shot. And shot. And shot, leading the team with seven shots on goal.
On defense, Drew Doughty did what he said in the off-season he’d do—he returned in great shape and fine form, controlling the game the way he is known to do, playing with the speedy Mikey Anderson, who notched 22:54 of ice time, to Doughty’s leading 23:49. That might seem like a bit of a low number, but recall that the Kings also added rock D man Alex Edler during the off-season, and he chewed up almost nineteen minutes.
Doughty notched a goal and three assists. His goal came on a power play in the third period, the second PPG in the game for LA. Their first had been Kopitar’s first of the night after Brown opened the LA scoring by tying the game at 1-1 when he redirected his own rebound past Robin Lehner. LA was thus two-for-two with the man advantage on the game.
Lehner lasted two periods in the Vegas net. The third was started, and finished, by Laurent Brossoit. Lehner had allowed four goals on 31 shots. Brossoit gave up a pair of goals on 16 shots.
As if to shut up everyone who was in the “Yeah, but we don’t need another guy who can defend but can’t score” camp, recent acquisition from Montreal Phillip Danault got the LA third goal, the one that would turn out to be the winner, at 3:05 of the second period. At the time, it made the game 3-1 for the Kings.
The Kings got down a goal early but then poured in all six of theirs before Vegas responded with one more with about five minutes to go in the game. The Kings had 47 shots in total to the Golden Knights’ 25. Cal Petersen was in the Kings’ net, looking steady all night after one early, awkward play where he was kind of sliding sideways on a shot that turned out to be the first Vegas goal.
This was the anniversary of the first LA Kings regular-season game, which took place on October 14, 1967, against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Kings now await Minnesota on Saturday night at 7:30pm. The Ducks will have played the Wild Friday night in Anaheim, with a 7pm start.
Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.