The LA Kings, feeling the effects of being swept over the weekend, used a big first period to top the Blues on Wednesday night.
Swept over the weekend at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, the LA Kings couldn’t make it home due to the snowstorm that hit Denver on Sunday afternoon. As a result, Monday night’s game with the St. Louis Blues was postponed until later in the season. With three days between games, the Kings had plenty of time to reflect on how the weekend unraveled.
“You know, it’s sometimes good to have a break,” forward Alex Iafallo said after Wednesday morning’s pre-skate. “But at the same time, you know, we were pissed off from the game before.”
While the scores didn’t necessarily reflect the play on the ice, aided with two empty-net goals, the LA Kings were outclassed in every facet. The Avalanche proved they are the Stanley Cup contenders projected in training camp.
Los Angeles came like a bat out of hell in the first period on Wednesday night, with Drew Doughty tallying the game’s first game score, a powerplay goal just 3:21 into the opening frame. For Doughty, the goal marked his fifth power play goal on the season and the 64th of his career, passing Wayne Gretzky (63) for the ninth-most in franchise history.
58 seconds later, Carl Grunstrom cleaned up a bouncing puck in front of the net, his fourth goal of the season. Approaching the end of the first period, Sean Walker carried the puck along the right side toward the net, sending the puck in front of the crease and bouncing off Trevor Moore‘s skate into the back of the net.
“I think it was just a lot of good forechecking work by all three of us,” Moore explained of his line against the Blues. “Then activating the D man. And then, you know, when you get a team out there, a group, a little more tired, [the] advantage goes to the offense, so we were able to break them down. Walks made a great pass.”
At the end of one, the LA Kings owned a commanding 3-0 lead.
It’s worth noting that Jaret Anderson-Dolan returned to the lineup and tallied two assists on both Grunstrom and Moore’s goals.
“You got to come in and make an impression right away,” Anderson-Dolan said on his return. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been hurt or anything like that there. There’s no excuse. And, you know, the practices I’ve been doing, [they] have prepared me as well as they can to get back in the lineup and make a difference. And, you know, that’s my main goal. Every time I’m in the lineup is just trying to help the team win.”
The Kings let their foot off the gas a bit in the middle frame, as the Blues generally dominated the puck possession, eventually getting on the board. Mike Hoffman scored at the 16:29 mark, his eighth goal of the season. The final period was largely uneventful, although St. Louis pulled their goalie with 3:45 left in the game.
And thankfully, Kopitar was able to score this 200-foot goal off a backhanded shot in what looked more like a zone clear than an attempt to score. With the way that Cal Petersen performed on the evening, stopping 19-of-20 shots, it was fitting that he had an assist on Kopitar’s empty-netter. The assist also marked Petersen’s first career NHL point.
Entering the night, the LA Kings and St. Louis Blues were separated by five points in the West Division standings. The Blues had lost four in a row, so it was critical the Kings win this game in regulation. With the Minnesota Wild better than most expected, could the Blues actually be the team preventing the Kings from making the playoffs?
With the win, the Kings are now 5-1-1 against St. Louis in the shortened 2021 season. Is there anything special the team is doing when facing the Blues?
“I think that we respect them enough — we really rise to the occasion,” McLellan said on the team’s success against the Blues this season. “We have checked well against this team. Our special teams seem to get us one more than they get a night, which really helps. And we’ve got outstanding goaltending in all of the matches that we played against them.”
LA Kings Schedule
The Kings are off Thursday, but they enter another important series against the Vegas Golden Knights this weekend. Puck drop is set for Friday night from Staples Center at 7 pm PT.