Auston Matthews (TOR - 34) skates up the ice.

Still Thanksgiving?

Worse and worser. Things  were like that for the LA Kings versus Toronto in Los Angeles on Wednesday  night. To start, Andreas Athanasiou was on the Covid protocol list and thus not playing. He was replaced by Lias Andersson. Also out was Kale Clague. Sean Durzi took a defense spot instead. More on him later.

No lineup shifts could  do anything to pump up the LA offense, which  could manage only  one goal, relatively early on,  and a second power play  tally, late in the third period. So one piece of good news: they were 2-for-3 on the PP. You can  understand, then why  Todd McLellan said what he did after the game. “Let’s hope it’s a one-off. We won’t know obviously until we play the  next, but tonight was not a good night for us. One team skated as if they were on top of the ice . . . and the other team sloshed through the slush. We were slow. . . . We weren’t together. It was not a good night  against a good hockey  team, and that’s what ends up happening.”

Essentially none of the first five goals, scored in periods one and two, could be charged to Jonathan Quick, who could easily have been pulled after the second period trailing 5-1. It would not have been a lesson, but a mercy pull to make up for the lack of energy on the part of the players in front of him. In short, the Leafs controlled behind the net and in the front of it. They frequently collapsed in on the net, controlling the puck as they did so. No goalie was going to keep them off the board.

McLellan said of his keeper: “Not one bit on Quickie. In fact, we’d probably be talking about  a lot of other goals if it wasn’t for [him].”

For Toronto, their big guys were, as cliche demands, their big guys. People who stayed up past midnight in Toronto would have been proud. (But they had to go to bed. Remember—it’s only  Thanksgiving on Thursday in America.)

The goaltending of Jack Campbell was not tested, except early. Former King Campbell made at least two crucial saves in the early going. On one, a centering pass came to Andersson as he cruised down the slot. Save. He also made a good one in period two on a chance where Moore put one to Kempe for a quick shot, and Campbell got the arm/glove over to stop it.

One more: Andersson after a faceoff got off a good shot, to which  Campbell responded with  a classic stretch out and block with the glove/leg.

On the other end, Quick had no such magic. In fact, at least one goal had him looking to the ceiling, in disgust, at the fact that the puck had eluded him. He had one of those nights were good positioning, which normally makes a certain amount of pucks simply hit him, was there but didn’t pay  off in saves. One sailed right past his hip (the third)—it was that kinda night,.

In the end, each goalie made 30 or more saves, but the shots were obviously disparate. The stats, as you might gather, were heavily weighted in favor of the visiting team. Shots were Toronto 38, LA 32.  Faceoffs, were ridiculously lopsided, at 67% for the Maple Leafs.

Sean Durzi, a former Maple Leafs second-round draft pick in 2018, made his NHL debut in the silver and white LA uniform. His first shift was bad—he  lost a puck at the opposing blueline and had to watch the Leafs burst down ice and score. Later, he was better. He recorded an assist on the Kings’ goal, a high shot that he seemed to know would hit Arvidsson’s stick and bounce down and past Campbell. Happy moment indeed, especially with his family looking on.

Things got better. He got a pass across the zone coming towards the net late in the third period. He drifted in and snapped a rising wrister in and past Campbell’s shoulder. The puck hit the crossbar and snapped down to the ice. A teammate, Arvidsson, recognizing the moment, immediately scooped up the puck.

Durzi, by the way, is a Toronto native and a huge  Leafs fan from way  back. Immediately after his goal, he was put out again, looking quite pleased despite the larger circumstances.

Nice, but no help, ultimately, in taming the Maple Leafs. Toronto goal scorers included Tavares, Matthews, and Jason Spezza. Multi-point games came from six players, with Rasmus Sandin leading the way  and getting three assists.

The Kings now take their “gleaming buckets,” the name coined by Mike Rupp on NHL radio this week to describe the shiny silver helmets the Kings wore, to battle against Ottawa on Saturday  afternoon.

Toronto, for its part, plays in San Jose Friday and Anaheim Sunday.

 

Notes

Rasmus Kupari hit David Kampf in the head early in a play in the Toronto zone. He was called for a trip, but he’ll end up answering to player safety most likely. Watch for the news the day after American Thanksgiving.

Brian Kennedy is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.