Despite lack of production, Blake Lizotte’s unwavering work ethic finally pays off, helping the LA Kings to a crucial victory on Tuesday.
As is the story for many LA Kings this season, Blake Lizotte has had trouble finding the back of the net. After scoring twice in the first four games of the season, the St. Cloud State alum went on a long scoring slump before breaking through on Tuesday night as he and his linemates propelled the Kings to a crucial 4-1 victory vs. Anaheim.
Since Jan 21, Lizotte has been unable to score. However, this has not been from a lack of effort. Eventually, the 23-year-old’s efforts were bound to pay off. On Tuesday, they did as Lizotte scored a goal — his third of the season — and added a pair of assists for his, believe it or not, first multi-point game of 2021.
“You know, it’s hard to explain that,” Lizotte admitted of what factored in his three-point night most. “I think we were just simple tonight. We played direct and when you get pucks to the net, good things happen, and I think sometimes we have a tendency to kind of over-pass. Tonight, we were playing direct and got pucks to the net and, as a result, scored a few goals.”
Tuesday’s game was an important one on a few levels for the silver-and-black.
Not only do they remain in contention for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West but after their weekend series vs. Colorado was postponed, there was the uncertainty that the Kings would be slow out of the gate due to rust, or over-rest.
The Kings needed just 5:26 to put that uncertainty to bed as the trio of Lizotte, Athanasiou and Grundstrom opened the scoring — getting on the board courtesy of, of all things, the latter’s back. Athanasiou took a pass from Lizotte and shot it hoping to reach the net. Instead, Grundstrom’s back got in the way but it bounced in the home team’s favor as the Kings took the early 1-0 lead.
“You know what, he’s scored a couple of those this year,” a very amused Lizotte said of the goal. “So, we made some jokes, just, ‘Hey Grundy, go stand in front and we’ll shoot ’em off your back and hopefully they’ll go in’ so, we’ll take him how we can get him, I guess.”
In total, the Lizotte-AA-Grundstrom collected a combined eight points on Tuesday.
Athanasiou blasted a one-timer past Ducks netminder Anthony Stolarz to make it 3-0 before Lizotte jumped on a loose puck in front, ending his scoreless drought, to put the Kings up by 4. Of course, while the trio hasn’t put up many points prior to Tuesday’s contest, their chances have been nonetheless evident in recent weeks. Just as evident, though, has been the great chemistry between the three, something Lizotte has attributed to solid communication.
“I think all three of us talk a lot,” the minuscule center noted. “That’s a big thing that Coach [Todd McLellan] has been kind of nailing into our brains lately is just talking more. The game is a lot easier when you talk and think AA and Grundy, us three have an understanding that we need to talk to know where each other are, and I think we have a lot of trust in each other, and I think that’s the biggest key to success is trusting your teammates and being able to communicate properly.”
While it may be just one game, Lizotte is hoping that his contributions on Tuesday are a sign of things to come. The former Fargo Force certainly has the confidence to do just that while helping his team make a serious playoff push.
“I think as of late, I’ve kind of found my stride and I felt more confident trying to make plays and scoring,” Lizotte said. “It’s something that every player goes through, and I think it’s part of maturing in this league, and I’m just happy to be on this side of it where I’m playing confidently right now.”
To make matters better, Lizotte’s tireless efforts this season have not gone unnoticed by his teammates. Drew Doughty, for one, has marveled at how his teammate helps the club on a nightly basis.
“He does all the little things right,” the veteran blueliner emphasized. “He works probably harder than anyone on our team, and when someone does that game-in and game-out, they deserve to be rewarded. And not that he hasn’t been creating chances in the other games, he has, but they’re just finally going in for him and, you know, the hockey gods are finally on his side because he deserves all the points and stuff because he does all those other little things for us that a lot of other players don’t do.”
It could be argued that Lizotte’s return to the scoresheet, if you will, was inspired by the long-awaited returns of fans to STAPLES Center. Of course, regardless of whether this was a factor or not, the 23-year-old is nonetheless thrilled to have the Kings faithful back in attendance.
“It was unbelievable,” beamed Lizotte. “You know, it’s been about a year– a little over a year since we’ve heard fans and it’s something that you don’t really– you kind of take it for granted when you have fans all the time and these last three months where we haven’t had fans, it’s a different atmosphere and a different play style and it’s just not as exciting. So, I’m absolutely thrilled to have our fans back and providing energy for us. Like, I seriously– it makes a huge difference, and absolutely love having them back. So, that was great to me.”
It has been the play of the silver-and-black’s unsung talent that has kept them in playoff contention. Yes, the losing ways of those clubs just ahead of them in the standings factor in as well, but the Kings are feeling good anyway, and that definitely includes Blake Lizotte.
Whether or not Tuesday’s success is a sign of things to come for Lizotte and the Kings, they will be working to make that the case in their next outing, Friday night at home against the Minnesota Wild.