After getting beat in every area of the game to start their season against Colorado on Wednesday night, the LA Kings could be said to be expecting their “real” home opener on Saturday night with Carolina in town. They were looking to rectify their poor opening effort.
This started with excitement outside the arena. Wednesday the area around the arena had been a dead zone. Saturday it was jumping, with face painting, an appearance by the mascot, Bailey, and an autograph session with the broadcast color commentator, Darryl Evans, “former Kings forward,” as the sign in front of his table said.
Inside, the team was expecting a different result, in part because they would be playing with a full complement of skaters, where in the prior game, they had had to use only 11 forwards because of cap problems.
Unfortunately, what got them out of cap trouble was that Viktor Arvidsson was, as some people say it, “Down in his back.” Team GM Rob Blake explained before the game that this was an injury suffered early in camp and now aggravated enough to need surgical correction, likely next week. This takes Arvidsson out of the lineup, but at least makes the team cap compliant.
So how’d they do? Well, let’s just say that they didn’t get any help from their goalie, on this night Pheonix Copley. As Blake had earlier explained it, the team intends to give each starter, Copley and Cam Talbot, who lost on Wednesday night, a chance to compete for the starting job. Whoever gets it, runs with it. Copley set himself back a ways on this, allowing a goal gently slid between his legs while the Kings were on the PP. He let in another at regular strength when Jesperi Kotkaniemi rolled a puck from about on the goal line and had it hit Copley’s far-side skate and redirect into the net. The Kings got one back in the form of Doughty firing a shot that went in off Brent Burns in front of the net. But that should have made the game 1-1, not 3-1 as it did due to Copley’s two gaffes.
It looked like the Kings were going to drop another dismal effort, and it’s true that they were down by three goals three separate times, 3-0, 4-1, and 5-2. But they rallied, knotting the game at five goals aside with 1:22 left to play. What happened?
They woke up. In the first two periods, the LA team was beaten to the puck. It was almost a replay of Wednesday night, with another well-coached, skilled, fast, and surgically precise team making what is supposed to be a very solid Los Angeles squad look like they can’t quite keep up. They even let two shorthanded goals get by them. But in period three, the Kings were suddenly staying with the Carolina side. LA scored two goals in the third to tie the game. They were playing with purpose. It was almost like the old cliché about the road catching up with the visiting team late in the game were true.
Ultimately, the Hurricanes would prevail in the shootout, leaving LA with a point in the loss, but they had to be happy getting anything at all, and pleased that they could erase their goalie’s weak play. On the night, Carolina’s five goals (shootout aside) came on 19 shots on goal. The Kings’ five came over 30 shots.
The shootout took nine rounds before Jordan Martinook scored to win it. The newcomer hero of the other night, Alex Laferriere, was the final shooter for LA. He missed with a low shot. Martinook flew straight down center and roofed one with a quick flick of the wrists for a lovely display of skill.
What are the Kings thinking about their performance? After the game, Coach McLellan said, “It’s a very good point we earned. It’s a bad point we gave away. I think [the key was] the resilience of the group coming back and not quitting and actually playing for the most part a pretty good game.” He further commented that the PK was a key in getting the Kings going when they could have folded in period three.
McLellan was adamant in saying that Kevin Fiala needed to clean up his mistakes, including a couple of key turnovers. The errors he made on the night were not overshadowed by his three assists, the coach indicated. “He’s a risk and reward player, and we allow him to play with some risk,” the coach said, “he’s dynamic [but] he can clean this up quickly; he will.”
He summed up, “Tonight, I don’t think our team was bad. I think some individuals were sloppy.” That was true almost all over the ice, but starting with between the pipes.
Three players had multi-point games. Kevin Fiala of the Kings had three assists. Kopitar had two goals. Sebastian Aho of the Hurricanes had a goal and an assist. He was first star, Kopitar second, and Vladislav Gavrikov third.
The Kings announced the following transactions on Friday:
*Forward Alex Turcotte and defenseman Brandt Clarke have been lent to the Ontario Reign (AHL).
*Forwards Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Arthur Kaliyev and Alex Laferriere and defenseman Jordan Spence have been recalled from Ontario.