It was all LA Kings to start the game versus Ottawa at 4pm Saturday. Los Angeles got the first goal and dominated in the shots. But by the end of one period, the game was tied. What did this signal for a team that came in badly needing a win to get back to positive ways?
The Kings were 0-3-2 in their last five games after being perfect the five before that. They had gotten a 6-2 spanking against Toronto on Wednesday, and they’d barely escapted a game against Arizona with one point for a regulation tie. This from a group that was looking solid in late October-early November.
Visually, things were good to start the Ottawa game. They had the rival goalie, Anton Forsberg, bamboozled. He slid out of his net and lost contact with it at least twice in the early going. He wasn’t helped by his club’s lack of discipline, as Ottawa took four minor penalties in the first period. One was offset by a call of embellishment on the Kings’ Kempe. But the penalties account in part for the first-period disparity in shots, 20-10 for LA.
Forsberg was also aided by the goalie’s best friends—posts and crossbar, as when Dustin Brown ventured down the slot and snapped off a wrister that hit the bar behind the netminder’s head. It remained 1-0 on the goal by Viktor Arvidsson, scored at just shy of the five-minute mark.
The Sens then pushed with about four minutes to go in the first period, and with 18.9 seconds left, Michael Del Zotto hit Iafallo of the Kings with a puck that floated on goal and fluttered past Cal Petersen’s head. The first frame thus ended up tied. What a discouraging turn of events after a strong start for LA!
The second period saw the Kings score two goals to go up 3-1, but then Ottawa again clawed back with the last goal of the period to tighten it to 3-2.
Prior to that, it had been momentum LA, as when Kopitar made a drive down the center of the slot after getting a puck from Durzi. He went inside-outside with the puck, deking through defensemen’s sticks and shooting right down center. That was on a power play, and, in fact, was the best play on that man advantage.
Two interesting events happened as the game wound on. The first was a goal that was clearly waved “no” by the referee. Then, the ref who made the announcement of what had happened to show that it was going to review said it was called a goal on the ice. Maybe after, but not at the time! Anyway, the review went in LA’s favor. It was a funny play where Sanford of Ottawa shoved Grundstrom of LA and the puck kind of slid in after the fact, after Grundstrom hit the Ottawa goalie. Thing is, he was pushed there, and he didn’t have the chance not to go where he was directed.
The other interesting oddball was a scrum in period three that ended up with Brendan Lemieux and Brady Tkachuk engaged. Lemieux was down on top of the Ottawa captain for a while, two linesmen basically on top of them. Here’s the bad part: when Tkachuk got up, he showed his hand and appeared to be claiming that he’d been bitten. Details just below.
Anyway, period three started with Ottawa setting the pace. They did not score, and LA took over the momentum. Danault put a puck to the front of the visitors’ net, and Iafallo redirected it to force Forsberg to make another in a string of nice saves. On the other end, Petersen made a nice glove save on Thomas Chabot with about 8:15 left.
Then the bite, at 13:31. The Lemieux chomp cost him and Tkachuk four minutes each, so offsetting penalties, but Lemieux got a five-minute match penalty also. That meant LA had a lot of killing to do. Petersen turned aside a snap shot from Tim Stutzle, a one-timer from Norris that hit someone and changed direction on the way in, and a shot-rebound sequence from Tierney right at the edge of the crease. Then there was a fake deke by Ennis and backhand from the low slot. Petersen was equal to it.
So the Kings killed the five, and Ottawa pulled their goalie shortly after. That yielded no goals for Ottawa but one that the Kings’ Grundstrom skated all the down the ice and put into the empty Ottawa cage with 33.9 seconds left.
To summarize, the game should have been all-LA, but it was a more even, or even teeter-totter, sixty minutes than it ought to have been. Petersen, in the end, had to make some good saves, an Forsberg as well, or it woulnd’t have been anywhere near as interesting as it was. The shots turned out 37-32 for the Kings, not what the early going indicated.
Del Zotto and Brown scored for Ottawa. Kings goals came from Arvidsson, two from Grundstrom, and Kaliyev (the eventual winner). Alexander Edler had two assists for the Kings, and Kopitar three. Philip Danault was the star of the night in the faceoff circle, going 10-3. Blake Lizotte won four of his five also.
Coach McLellan summarized afterwards: “We were desperate for a win, and wins help no matter how you get them. I thought we played a fairly solid game.” He said he was concerned with the lack of ability to put a team away, especially given the many opportunities on the power play in period one, though he credited the other side’s goalie.
He also said, “We didn’t want to play the last six minutes the way we did, either,” referencing the Lemieux situation. “It wrong . . . but it’s also not the position to put the team in.” He cited Lemieux’s value to the team, however, even as he suggested that there’s the possibility of a suspension.
McLellan also said he shuffled the lines to start the night and that he shuffled them again in-game. “I thought all four lines had an effective game,” he summarized.
Sean Durzi played his second NHL game and got an assist. That wasn’t as remarkable as that he was featured on the power play, controlling the action from the top of the umbrella structure LA is using. This happened over and over again—in his second game, I repeat.
Drew Doughty is skating in a regular (ie. not non-contact) sweater now, and he’ll be back within days, according to the Kings’ coaching staff.
Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.