The Kings put together a game that was less than entirely dominant, but managed to pull off a win regardless. The victory is precisely the kind of game that the Kings will need to win if they want to make it to the elite levels of the NHL. Average teams win when they play well. Great teams win when they play poorly. Finding a way to win games that they might not deserve to win is a big step for the Kings, and something that we didn’t see much of over the past few seasons. It’s a positive development to be sure, and one that any fan can identify as a real turning point.
In this game, there was a lot of back and forth. The Kings jumped out to a 1-0 lead on another goal (his 3rd of the season) by Ryan Smyth, before the Hurricanes stormed back and scored two straight goals. Chad LaRose and Eric Staal scored for the Hurricanes to push them into the lead, 2-1. Before the end of the 1st period, Wayne Simmonds fired a shot that was deflected by Ponikarovsky and Handzus before finding its way into the net. In the 2nd period, teams traded goals, with Anze Kopitar scoring his first of the season, and Jeff Skinner tied it up for the Hurricanes. The final goal, and game winner happened in the 3rd period, when Andrei Loktionov opened his NHL scoring account. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before he scored, and this was a great time to start that effort, even if it wasn’t the most beautiful of goals – he banked the puck off the goalies stick and into the net. Regardless, it was a goal, and a game winner at that. Well done Loktionov.
So the Kings are off to an impressive 4-1 start to their season, certainly something that is helpful to their efforts at making the playoffs (the first goal of the season). As we’ve seen over the past few seasons, the first half of the season might not secure a playoff spot, but it will go a long way. And perhaps more ominously, a poor first half can be devastating to the playoff hopes of a team. Fortunately the Kings aren’t in that boat this season, at least so far.
It was good to see the Kings first line get going, with Kopitar and Loktionov both scoring goals in the game. Hopefully it’s just the beginning for both of them, and we can expect to see more consistent scoring from the both of them as the season progresses. Jonathan Bernier didn’t play great in this game, and at least one of the goals he probably should have managed to save, but he turned it on when the game was on the line, and stopped an impressive 15 shots in the 3rd period alone, with the game on the line. It wasn’t a great showing, but it wasn’t embarrassing either, and probably won’t shake Murray from his plan of rotating the goaltenders for a while.
Maybe the biggest mark on the game is the potential injury to Drew Doughty. Doughty was the recipient of a late hit courtesy of Eric Staal. It was a lame shot, clearly leveled long after Doughty got rid of the puck and he was injured. With any luck he’ll be able to bounce back fairly quickly, but he is injured enough that he didn’t make the trip to Phoenix. Murray is still leaving open the chance that he joins the team during this 5-game road trip, but if he doesn’t, it’ll be a big hit to the Kings. A return to the lineup by Matt Greene would soften, but not completely absorb the blow, since a Norris Trophy finalist can’t be easily replaced on any team.
In general the game was entertaining to watch, if a little angst ridden with the goals given up. What’d you think of the game? Big win? Bigger loss?
Three Stars of the Game:
1st: Anze Kopitar
2nd: Eric Staal
3rd: Michal Handzus
Topics: Alexei Ponikarovsky, Andrei Loktionov, Anze Kopitar, Carolina Hurricanes, Chad LaRose, Drew Doughty, Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Jonathan Bernier, Justin Peters, Los Angeles Kings, Michal Handzus, Phoenix Coyotes, Ryan Smyth, Terry Murray, Wayne Simmonds