Compared to the flurry of activity that the Ducks saw this trade deadline week, the Kings were quiet. In fact, the LA team had just one new player in the lineup, in the person of Trevor Moore. He wasn’t even that new, having come over from Toronto early in February in the trade that saw Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell go the other way. Moore has already played nearly ten games in a Kings’ sweater.
Their other acquisitions were Tim Schaller, already demoted to Ontario, and Tyler Madden, who continues his university hockey career.
Gone, just so you can mourn them all at once, were Clifford and Campbell, Tyler Toffoli, Alec Martinez, and Derek Forbort. Recognizable names all, again in contrast with the moves the Anaheim team made, which were mostly a trading around of nobodies.
The Ducks didn’t get much in the way of draft choices back, either, as I detailed in my story last night after their game against Edmonton. The Kings, by contrast, netted themselves lots of picks: two third-rounders from Toronto, a second and a conditional fourth (in 2022) from Vancouver, two seconds from Vegas, and a conditional fourth (in 2021) from Calgary. So if you put the two squads side by side, it’s kinda clear the Kings won the rebuild game. The Ducks just got a bunch of guys they didn’t have before. (Let’s not discount, however, the immediate impact that Sonny Milano made with two goals versus Edmonton.)
Also new-ish in the lineup in the spot vacated by Campbell was Cal Petersen, a goaltender appearing in his fifth game of the year after playing 11 last year. Petersen is the reason Campbell was expendable, being the hoped-for successor in the LA net. He hails from Waterloo Iowa, and he played in the USHL before doing three years at Notre Dame. He is now 25 and has played in Ontario for the Reign since 2017-18. His NHL numbers coming in on Wednesday night were 3.53 GAA and .897 save percentage. Quick’s, just to offer you some context, were 2.98 and .898.
Petersen hadn’t let in less than three goals in any of his starts, and his worst performance was a five-goal tap by the Jets. He is a lefty, to add a little intrigue to the matter, and it was odd at first watching him, because everything is so—off—when you see his moves. Do shooters also feel that? Anybody know whether there’s a goalie factory somewhere turning out southpaws tuned to take the advantage for their own?
So how did this not-new Kings team fare? They enjoyed a power play in the early going, and they scored on it. That happened 2:34 in, on a point shot by Sean Walker tipped in expertly by Blake Lizotte. It was his fifth goal of the year.
The Pens had a PP themselves early, and a wonderful play where Patrick Marleau, obviously new to the team, did a give-and-go from behind the net. No goal.
Petersen lost his stick after that, and played without it for a sequence, until Dustin Brown iced the puck to get some relief.
The Kings had another power play, but the most dangerous shot on it was the one launched by the Penguins’ Teddy Blueger, a slapper to the long (right) side of the goalie. Petersen got it with the blocker.
Then Pittsburgh scored. Or seemed to. After some amazing puck movement in the zone that went from behind the Kings’ net, out to Crosby at the point, and back in, Crosby spun off Doughty in the slot and redirected a puck up and over the goalie. I didn’t think it was in, but it was called a goal. After review, they showed that it hadn’t gone in, but up off the crossbar and down to hit the ice again. It bounded along the goal line and just went past the post and out the goalie’s right side.
Crosby scrutinized the play on the IPad at the Pens’ bench for a long time afterwards.
Odd, this new modality that can take a player out of a game looking and looking at an cut-and-dried play.
The period ended 1-0 for LA, with the shots knotted at eight. The Kings looked good, as they have done of late. Was it their play, which was more aggressive and “big”—not fearful, controlling of the puck? Was it that Pittsburgh was tired? They had lost three in a row, the last to Washington, in DC.
Period two eventually saw the Pens dominate in shots, 14-6. That made the totals through two 22 for the Pens and 14 for the Kings. But despite some highlight-type crashes of the net, the Penguins couldn’t put one past the netminder. It started with a slapshot from the right point that made a huge CLANK! off the post. Marcus Pettersson took that shot. The Kings then picked it up and had a Brown-to-Kopitar pass intercepted and a slapper from Brown off a shorthanded rush with Iafallo go way wide.
The Penguins’ Dominik Simon wheeled around the Kings’ net and shot as he spun. The Pens’ Riikola took a slapshot that broke his stick and sent it flying into the crowd. There was no shortage of stuff happening, in other words. Just no goals.
Then Dave Joseph said two fateful things: “This is the last minute of the second period,” and “It’s the Mc-Ice-Cream minute!” (Well not that exactly, but they’re not paying me to advertise.)
And the Kings’ Lewis got the puck low, did a pull-and-drag move to beat Jack Johnson at the Pittsburgh goal line, and streaked across the crease left to right. He shot; the rebound came right back out to him. He shot again into the far (right) side of the net. It was only his fourth of the year, but it put the Kings up 2-0. There were 31.3 seconds to go in the frame. The assists went to Lizotte and Moore.
So if one game-within-the-game was to see whether the only trade month acquisition on the LA roster could gain a point, he did it.
The Penguins came out in the third and scored early. Three Kings’ players lost their man, Malkin. Kind of hard to do, but they backed up and sticked the puck, rather than getting to him. One of these was Drew Doughty. Anyway, the puck went to Rust, who fired home his 24thof the year. It went long side and snuck between the arm and the body of the goaltender.
The play was mostly controlled by the visitors, though they didn’t finish well—there were no spectacular saves forced out of Mr. Petersen at the ends of plays. The game rather just muddled along from moment to moment, mostly in the LA zone. The shots were 36-22 for Pittsburgh, but despite the gap, the Kings won.
Late goalie pull led to a spectacular set of shots from a mobile Pens’ squad, including some passing from Malkin to Letang and a rocket slapshot one-timer. Petersen held steady.
This is perhaps what Coach McLellan of the Kings was thinking of when he shared plans for the LA goalies as the season winds down. “[Petersen] did a real good job tonight. He’ll get some tough starts down the stretch . . . . Jonathan will play some games, and Cal will play some. You’ve seen Cal back-to-back already, so we’ll continue to make sure that both of them are part of the team.” He didn’t say “we see the future here, but it was kind of clear. “We have to think about moving forward next year and how we’ll use them and train them for that.” Hmmmm. Sounds like it’s time for someone (Petersen) to seize the net.
To go back to the game, Patrick Marleau, playing his first with Pittsburgh, was happy to get the emotional aspect of putting on a new sweater for the first time out of the way. But he also praised the Kings: “If they get the lead, they’re pretty hard to play against. They got that first one, and it was pretty sound defensively after that, though we had a lot of shots.”
The Kings have a ton of games at home in March, including nine in a row. They next play Vegas on Sunday in Nevada. Then it’s Toronto to start the home stand.