Seven times prior to Thursday, Jonathan Quick had found himself playing in goal for the LA Kings on January 21st, his birthday. Four of those, he’d pulled off a win. Three times, he lost. As the Kings and Avalanche started out, it looked like he might go to 4-4. But the Kings had other plans despite falling behind by a pair of goals in the first period after going down 1-0 with less than five minutes gone.
Quick’s teammate Adrian Kempe was quick to praise the keeper for his effort, which held the team in despite those two first period goals and ended up leading them to victory. “We were waiting to see what was going to happen the first period, but Quick was on his head a couple of times and really saved us, and we really bounced back in the second period,” Kempe said.
He later repeated the point: “He was awesome, standing on his head a couple of times and you know, he’s giving us a chance to win every night, him and Cal [Petersen, Quick’s backup].”
The game was 2-0 for Colorado after one, but tied at twos after two. Kempe scored at 16:04 of the third period, capping a recovery from the deficit after the Avalanche poured out of the gate with speed and dangerous chances. The shots were 12-7 for Colorado in P1, but 12-10 in the Kings’ favor in period two. In the third, the Kings outshot Colorado 8-4.
The winning goal came when first Doughty, then Iafallo, whacked the puck toward the Colorado net from the blueline. Kopitar got it in front and did a kind of backwards backhand pass to Kempe, who redirected it just inside the post past goalie Hunter Miska, playing in his second NHL contest.
The Kings’ captain portrayed it this way afterwards: “Just trying to surprise the goalie and their Dman, instead, of turning full 180 [degrees] to show that I was going to pass, instead, I just wanted to make a quick play, and it ended up working out.”
Kopitar described the game as a whole by saying the Kings started out weak but got better: “Maybe at the beginning we gave them too much respect, and kind of got caught on our heels, but after then, when the game went with the flow, we started forechecking, being more aggressive, spending more time in their zone, and that’s ultimately what we want to do and that’s what you have to do to be able to score goals.”
Coach McLellan added a similar idea, in his summation: “It wasn’t a Picasso, but we don’t need the perfection right now. We just needed the win.”
“It was a happy life at the end, but it was a stressful night throughout,” said the coach. But from an observer’s POV, it was a steady climb, with the Kings getting better and more assertive as time moved on. This, of course, was fully dependent upon Quick’s play.
Quick made 24 saves, playing in a more reckless (that is not a criticism) way than usual, perhaps because he had to. The Colorado team were all over him, in close, mid-range, out high—the shots just kept coming, as did the redirects. He had to play aggressively, staying low but many times well off the goal line in his positioning, sliding in and out of the crease to track the pucks that the Avs seemed to move around at will.
The Kings took four penalties, better than they had been doing. They allowed one goal on those chances. But on the positive side, they had five PP chances, and they scored twice on those.
Gabe Vilardi was the other PP scorer (aside from Kempe). He said after, “We just kept going, kept playing . . . . Then the power play came up, not sure if we got two power play goals or one, but we got the win. It’s nice having the win here.”
“I don’t think anything actually tilted the game. We just kept playing,” was Vilardi’s assessment of his team’s effort.
His goal was a beauty, and he described it after the game. “I was thinking shoot right away, and I wanted to go short side high, and I was lucky enough that it hit his helmet a little bit and then went in.”
So how did they win? By not giving up. By withstanding the Avs’ third-period push, which looked fierce but did not result in many shots, as noted above. The Kings were down 17-7 in shots at one point, but evened them at 24-24 late in the game.
The team’s first goal, by the way, was scored by Drew Doughty. He took a one-timer from inside the blueline, shifting his angle as he shot and fooling the netminder. This was on the PP also.
The final score was 4-2, with an empty-net goal by Blake Lizotte late after the Avs pulled their goalie with 2:13 left in the game.
Colorado won the faceoff competition 54% to 46%, a significant margin. The hits and blocked shots were more or less even.
Brian Kennedy is a credentialed NHL media member and a member ot the PHWA. He is reporting from his SoCal home during the pandemic.