Here we were again, mid-Sunday afternoon, Vegas in town to play the Kings. Local time 3pm. The NASCAR race from Atlanta still finishing up on TV. And LA hoping to avenge a 4-2 Friday night loss and keep their playoff hopes alive. They’d had the chance to pull within a point of St. Louis on Friday with a Kings win and St. Louis loss. Neither happened, so here they were trying to do it again.
LA was back to the traditional 6 D 12 forwards, from the 7 forwards, 11 blueliners lineup of Friday night. The lines were about what they’d been, except that Jeff Carter was moved back up from the fourth trio to the second, where he’d been for much of the last month or so. That group was Athanasiou with Carter and Kempe, also promoted a game or two ago.
The first group was as it has been, Kopitar centering Brown and Iafallo. And as the afternoon wore on, they got what would later be evident as the winning goal. That was the team’s second tally in an eventual 3-1 win. The goal, to be precise, came from Brown, his 14th, with the other two assisting. For Kopitar, the helper was his 29thof the season.
The second line was also notable throughout the game, notching the eventual insurance goal late in P3 in the form of Carter scoring with the assist to Athanasiou. That came with about two and a half left in P3. It was preceded by a play where Doughty knocked the net off the pegs but seemed to legitimately make a save just before. He got a penalty for delay of game on the net deal.
This was not the only time the referees were front and center. The Knights challenged a goal on interference in P2 but it was nowhere close to being possible to overturn the goal, scored by Sean Walker from on the edge of the crease. He and Brown were going for the puck, and outside the blue paint, on the play.
Another notable moment came when Austin Wagner fought Keegan Kolesar in period to defend himself for making a prior hit. It was a true middle-weight contest, ended by a body punch that put Wagner to his knee but was appreciated by both teams.
In period three, it wasn’t the typical lockdown. Instead, Cal Petersen had to make a number of good saves to preserve the lead. Each team scored one goal but that just made it the 3-1 score earlier indicated. The Kings survived being shorthanded two players during the going, and that kill was described as “desperately needed” by the coach after the game.
The win didn’t move the Kings closer to the playoffs, because St. Louis backed up its Friday win with another one on Saturday. That means the LA team is still five points out of fourth with one game in hand on St. Louis but having played more that the teams sitting 1-2-3 in the Honda West.
The Kings were outshot 42-31, but they won the faceoff battle at 59%. They now play away for a week, starting with two games in San Jose before rematching with Vegas on Monday and Wednesday to end the month of March.
Coach McLellan said after, “I think the start the other night we waited for something to happen . . . . Tonight was different. I thought we played a good forty minutes, then we knew the push was coming, and they threw everything at us that they had . . . .” He added, “For the most part it was a real team game . . . . It’s nice to win that group game rather than an individual game sometimes.”
Jim Fox was talking about cancer fighter Anne before the game, and he choked up. That’s because this is not just an obligation with him, something created by the team. It’s because he’s a genuine, good, remarkable man. There are a lot like him. This is hockey. But to him I say—thanks Jimmy. You’ve never been anything but heroic to me.
The Kings extended Matt Roy for three years at north of 3 million bucks a year. McLellan was complimentary about his play after the game.
The Kings lost defenseman Olli Maata with a couple of minutes gone, and he did not return.