It was supposed to be a big NHL double-header night uin SoCal Thursday. The Kings would host Nashville while down the highway the Ducks were set for Detroit. Never happened, as you likely know—the Ducks have Covid problems and had to postpone their contest until Sunday.
This on the heels of a win versus Philadelphia on Tuesday in which nine Ducks regulars were unable to participate. That game featured the first NHL hat trick of Troy Terry, who leads the Ducks in scoring with 34 points on 21 goals. Trevor Zegras trails him at 8-17-25, followed by Sonny Milano with 23 points (nine goals) and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (6-14-20).
That win snapped a string of misfortune which included some postponements and three straight losses to end the old year and ring in the new.
The NHL announced the postponement at 1:30 local time, leaving the Kings to carry on the NHL action for the night in the region. The Ducks’ next scheduled contest is Saturday night at 7pm versus the Rangers. They make up the Detroit game at 5pm Sunday.
So how about those Kings?
They beat the Flyers 6-3 on New Year’s Day, and had beaten Vancouver before that, 2-1 in a shootout. They, too, had games postponed late in December, and generally spent the month in a win-one/lose-one mode. Their game versus Nashville would end that aforementioned two-game win streak, a 4-2 loss which began with three Nashville goals before the Kings got within one on a marker by Dustin Brown and a PPG by Martin Frk. Nashville put them away to go up by two with just over a minute to go and the Kings’ net predictably empty.
It wasn’t for lack of shots on goal. Nashville netminder Juuse Saros faced 48 of those. On the other side, Jonathan Quick’s net, including when empty, had 20 directed its way, 19 when the keeper was stationed between the pipes. For Saros, the performance was good enough only to net him Third Star of the game honors. Filip Forsberg of Nashville was First Star, and Dustin Brown of LA Second Star. For Brown, his goal was number five on the year, the first since he had missed three games due to Covid protocol. The goal put him 20thall-time for American goal-scorers, surpassing Bobby Carpenter.
The Predators are now 10-1-1 in their last dozen games, and first in the Central Division. Note, however, that they have played more games (35) than their closest division rivals, St. Louis (34) and Colorado (30).
Their first two goals were both scored on power plays. The Nashville PP is fifth in the league, hitting at 27%. The Kings are killing at a 74.2 rate, 27th in the league.
The Kings also outduelled Nashville in the faceoff circle, winning 60 percent of draws. In short, there’s not much they could have done better, if numbers are the measurement, except beat Saros more often. Or take fewer penalties.
The Nashville goals were a bit uncharacteristic to allow, perhaps. The first one was roofed past Quick on a play where he went to one knee and waved the catching glove up high. That was by Forsberg. The second saw Duchene cut through the entire defense, including Doughty and Kupari, to just nudge a puck over the line. The third one also saw Quick in an odd pose, looking almost 70s-style with a two-pad pillow stack. That one was scored by former King Matt Luff, his first as a Pred. The fourth was into the empty net, as mentioned.
It’s not as bad for the Kings as all of that sounds, however. Had they managed to win the game, they would be sitting on 39 points and in the West Wildcard second position. In fact, six teams stay in sight of that spot, with Dallas the least of them and only trailing the actual Wildcard-holding team, Edmonton, by four points with four games in hand.
Thus while the East, at least if you listen to Toronto radio (or podcasts thereof), has already basically set its playoffs, the West is anybody’s game to enter, and thus the old saw, “Just get in and see what happens,” is very much alive. The Kings go back to work on Saturday versus Detroit.
Adrian Kempe was stopped on the first penalty shot of his career. It marked the third consecutive Kings game that featured a penalty shot (2 for, 1 against), the first time that has happened in franchise history. The last time it happened in the league was by the Montreal Canadiens (three consecutive games, April 2-6, 2009). It was the fifth time there was a penalty shot in a Kings game this season (2 for, 3 against), most of any team in the league (LA Kings PR).
The arena hosted about 14,300 fans, short of capacity by about four thousand.