LA Kings vs. Sharks: Cal Petersen’s robbery, youth movement shine in win

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

The LA Kings salvaged the series finale against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday with a brilliant effort in all three phases.

A consistent theme for the LA Kings so far this season has been that they don’t start games well.

Having not won a game since January, the Kings came out with an early sense of urgency on Thursday, though. It was something we haven’t seen from them much this year.

Anze Kopitar opened the scoring after early pressure by the LA Kings led to an early power play, his third straight game with a goal, and just the third time in 13 games this season LA had struck first.

Later in the period, a Jaret Anderson-Dolan shot deflected off Carl Grundstrom and in for Grundstrom’s third goal of the season. Even Austin Wagner got in on the fun, getting sprung out of the penalty box for a breakaway and beating Martin Jones on a backhander.

Making his season debut, Tobias Bjornfot picked up his first NHL point with an assist on Wagner’s goal. 3-0, LA.

Tomas Hertl would get the Sharks on the board before the end of the period, then score again to pull them within one in the second. The Kings were determined not to let this one slip away, though.

About five minutes into the third period, Grundstrom pounced on a turnover by Erik Karlsson behind the San Jose net, then quickly started a beautiful tic-tac-toe goal with Trevor Moore and Anderson-Dolan, finished off by JAD at the side of the net.

The line of Moore, Anderson-Dolan, and Grundstrom was impressive, accounting for two of LA’s three even-strength goals on the night. Anderson-Dolan, in particular, has really opened some eyes over the four games he’s played since being inserted into the lineup.

The rest of the damage was done on the power play, which started to show some signs of life over the course of these two games against San Jose.

Shortly after Evander Kane was called for slashing, Dustin Brown was clipped with a high stick from Brent Burns, knocking him down to the ice and into Jones. This took Jones out of the play, allowing Alex Iafallo to lift a backhander over the helpless netminder.

Sharks coach Bob Boughner decided to challenge the goal for goalie interference. It wasn’t a challenge he seemed likely to win, given Burns was being penalized for the play that caused Brown to collide with Jones, and a failed challenge would give the LA Kings a full two minutes of a 5-on-3 power play. It still seemed like a worthwhile challenge, given the goal was going to put his team down 5-2 with 14 minutes to go, but the review was quick and went LA’s way.

On the ensuing 5-on-3, Jones couldn’t control a one-timer from Jeff Carter that trickled in to make it 6-2.

Held scoreless since potting the Kings’ first goal of the season back on January 14th, Carter finally found the back of the net again. Meanwhile, Drew Doughty pushed aside any injury concerns after leaving Tuesday’s game, leading all players in this game with 25:40 of ice time and picking up his third assist of the night on Carter’s goal.

The six goals on the night matched LA’s season-high from a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on January 24th, though the final goal of that game was an empty netter.

Definitely worth noting is that Cal Petersen was given his third straight start on Thursday. He again played pretty well, finishing with 29 saves on 31 shots, perhaps none more impressive than this robbery of Patrick Marleau in the first period.

It seems pretty clear that the LA Kings are ready to give Petersen a chance to seize the starting job. So far, he’s making the most of it.

But the biggest takeaway from this game is still that the Kings have to figure out how to start games playing like they did on Thursday more often. As they’ve learned all too often this season, playing from behind is a lot harder than playing from in front.

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LA Kings schedule

The Kings will now have a few days off, at least, thanks to Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Wild being postponed due to the Wild’s COVID-19 situation. As of now, the Kings and Wild are still scheduled to play each other at Staples Center next Tuesday.