Just when you think there’s nothing much to see at the LA Kings’ game, pow! They pop two power play goals in the first four-plus minutes against Chicago.
Chicago. One of the reasons fans braved the weather and turned up (OK, it’s not a blizzard, but the rain does tend to be a hassle here) was to see this surging team (if you call three wins in the last five games and six in the last ten a surge) which isn’t quite out of the playoff hopeful picture and which has been lighting up the score sheet in the past month or so. What the spectators didn’t necessary think would happen was a 3-0 LA lead, but that transpired in P1, too.
The Blackhawks didn’t help themselves by allowing the Kings the third goal just after the five-minutes-remaining commercial break. This one was at regular strength, scored by Kovalchuk when he fired one from just inside the blueline.
In between these events, let’s be frank, Jonathan Quick kept the Kings in the game. He was fired at point-blank, and made saves off the body, blocker, and legs, including three times on one power play. The shooter there was Patrick Kane. The Kings may be done, but Quick certainly is not. He flew around the crease, mobile as ever. He also had an assist on the first goal, an interesting curiosity.
The third LA goal was a one-timer from the right circle, the mirror image of the one Ovechkin takes from the left side. Puck movement and shooting at the net. That’s the formula. The Kings were finally willing to use it. Kovalchuk, to repeat.
For Chicago, Kane’s been red hot of late, which might have been another fan draw for people considering coming out to this game. He just came off a 20-game point streak, and a five-game goal streak. Since January 20th, Kane is the highest points-getter in the league, with 29 coming into the afternoon matinee in LA. Kucherov of Tampa Bay is second in this category, with 26 points.
And just to underline the point that Chicago is on fire (something you should say with caution, if you know history), the third leading points getter in the NHL is DeBrincat with 25. Tied for fourth is Toews with 24. Despite that, the team is way in the hole in goals, with a GF of 215 and a GA of 239 (-24). In fact, that’s far worse than the second wildcard team, Minnesota, with a -10. But what surprises in this Western race is the sheer volume of goals, both Chicago’s and their opponents’.
What do we call this? Combined scoring by teams-for/against (CST-F/A)? Chicago’s 454 far exceeds that of everyone but San Jose, but the Sharks are a plus-29.
And they added to it, getting a goal of their own with 1:14 left in the first. Perlini, his sixth. It came off the kind of lazy defensive play that bad teams let happen. Two Kings chased the puck into their zone and behind their net. So did Dylan Strome. He came up with it. Pushed it out to the point to Slater Koekkeok, who glided it from left point to right for Perlini. He took a slapshot back against the grain, towards the left of the net (Quick’s right). He realized too late that committing himself sliding left was a mistake, sort of shot the blocker out as it to get the puck, but missed it. Surprising how much space there was on the open side.
The culprit on the LA side was Doughty, and even on replay, it’s almost hard to believe how bad he looked on the play. It’s as if he had just been hurt, and was hobbling. He was out of position, immobile, and unaware of what to do. Curious.
The second period began with the shots at 15-11 for Chicago. They would end up taking just seven more, to the Kings’ six. But don’t mistake that for the amount of action. This period ended 4-3. What?
The Blackhawks’ goalie, Crawford, made a long pass from his crease to Perlini, who grabbed it and spun around. He moved in on goal, took a couple of dekes, and shot into the left side of the net.
After that, Kane and Toews took over with the puck in the Kings’ zone, but didn’t score. But the Blackhawks did shortly after when Kunitz sent a puck up the middle. Connor Murphy took it, approaching the LA blueline slowly. It was a bit odd. He kind of bobbled it, or maybe it was a stickhandle. He shot almost reluctantly, as if there were no other idea in mind. Kurtis MacDermid was backing up. It hit off his stick or the inside of his leg, and caught Quick with no way to adjust. The puck fluttered up and in, Quick moving to his right but then sticking up his catching glove at the last second. He was on one knee.
And then the Kings came back with one of their own. Kempe scored it to put his goals total to double-digits (10). Call-up Jonny Brodzinski (fourth game of the year, one goal thus far) got the assist.
It was the kind of goal that they have to score—skating and passing being the key features. Brodzinski broke out fast, with Kempe in the middle. At the blueline, Kempe beat his check, Toews (!), who turned around and didn’t seem to know what to do. The puck came over, and Kempe glided to the net and put it up and over Crawford, into the top.
The period ended with a bit more action. Toffoli rode Connor Murphy into the boards behind the Chicago net. Murphy went to the ground. He had been defenseless on the play, though to be honest, Toffoli seemed off balance too. Toffoli served two minutes for boarding, and when he got out of the box, got a breakaway. He was pushing the puck ahead of him, perhaps aware of the fragility of his stick, which broke as he approached the net.
So a three-goal lead evaporated, but the LA team got it back. Forty minutes gone. Kane had dazzled with is stickhandling, Toews with his ability to control the play, except on the goal. Would they gain two points? They surely needed them.
The third period saw the Kings score again, a puck that Kopitar controlled, then lost, behind the Chicago net going to Kovalchuk, who quick-outted it to Leipsic in the slot. He shot one that fluttered as if he didn’t get all of it. Or maybe there was a force field in front of the net. This puck beat Crawford the way Murphy’s had beaten Quick, oddly off-speed. The Kings will take it.
They followed up with a good shift where everyone was trying to fire away, and everyone was moving. It was broken up when Doughty tried a pass to himself through a set of Chicago legs but saw it claimed by the Hawks and taken up the other way.
The period was not halfway over when the shot clock was 29-20 for the Blackhawks. At ten minutes exactly, it was 30-20. Shortly after that moment, Dylan Sikura burst in and took a speedy wrister that Quick grabbed with the glove. Sure goal had he missed it. Looked spectacular when he caught it.
Kyle Clifford got a puck on the left side and skated it toward the net, putting a wrist shot off the post, then crossbar, and back out on the same side he shot it from. The Hawks pushed a bit towards the end, but it was the Kings who scored once more. Dustin Brown potted one with under two minutes to go and the goaltender still in place. He thus scored the game’s first and last goals. Carter had two assists. Three Kings had a goal and an assist—Doughty, Leipsic, and Kovalchuk. Quick, obviously, got the win as LA took a victory at 6-3. They were outshot 32-25
The Kings have been awful of late. Ten losses in a row before this game, though with gaining four overtime points in the span. Prior to that, they won three in a row. Fans hope that this game is the portent of a good, or at least respectable, end to the season. The team is at home for two more games, versus Montreal on Tuesday and St. Louis next Thursday.
Kempe was first star. The crowd was largely partial towards Chicago, with lots of red in residence.
Both Quick and his opposite, Crawford, had assists.