This season, the Los Angeles Kings are 19-0-2 when scoring three or more goals in a game. Before last night’s game, they were 19-0-1. The regulation point was important as the Kings are now back in a playoff spot and, coupled with San Jose’s, just two points out of the division lead. With that said, though, the effort last night was one that could have, nay, should have, been more consistent.
After getting shut out in back-to-back games in Los Angeles, head coach Darryl Sutter addressed him team, most notably calling out Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown for their recent woes. Whatever was said or done worked as in the opening frame, the Kings exploded for three goals, one of which scored by Brown who assisted on his team’s first goal as well.
After the first period ended, it was a case of the Kings staying the course, playing a sound defensive game like they usually do and with Jonathan Quick in net, keeping the puck out.
Early in the second, the Coyotes were rewarded with two questionable penalties which they scored on both. Considering they had the league’s worst power play heading into last night’s game, the Coyotes turned a lot of heads I’m sure. Suddenly, the Kings looked fazed but to their credit, they scored to regain the two-goal lead only to have Phoenix pull to within a goal once again.
Then, speaking of questionable penalties, Kyle Clifford was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit on Gilbert Brule, someone has already had a history of concussions. Although the hit was late, it was clean and if I were officiating that game, I would have given Clifford a maximum of two minutes in the sin bin – and even that would have been too much for some fans. Nevertheless, Clifford got the worst of it and on the man-advantage, the Coyotes scored to tie the game and send the game to overtime and then ultimately the shootout, where they won.
It really is a shame that last night’s contest was the final one between the Kings and Coyotes this season. Last night coupled with last week’s meeting in Los Angeles made my blood boil. Being a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan (my apologies to Dodgers and Angels fans), the last time I feel this much contempt for a team was the pre-2004 New York Yankees. Of course, in Glendale, there are no chants of “1918” or talks of a curse. In fact, if there were any such chants in Glendale, I wouldn’t be the least bit upset – just downright confused.
Whether it’s justified or not, I look at the Phoenix Coyotes as league commissioner Gary Bettman’s team. The NHL owns the club so why not associated the franchise with a man I have always considered the worst thing to happen to hockey since the 1919 influenza that killed a number of players. I also say that because that was the first time the season and playoffs had been canceled... that was until 2005 when Bettman canceled the season for a labor issue neither he or the owners made any effort to solve. But I digress.
Since last season (and it’s likely happened prior to), the Phoenix Coyotes seem to be a very privileged team when they play the Kings. Although you have to understand that part of me just hates it when the Kings lose to the Coyotes, last night, there were three questionable penalties that cost the Kings three goals. Last week, the Kings seemed to get called for enough penalties while the Coyotes got away with a lot. Last year (and yes, I still remember this), Martin Hanzal slapped the puck in the net with a very blatant high-stick and even after minutes of review, the goal stood. For someone who usually says, “Okay, whatever. Forget about it. Let’s get that one back,” I don’t recall ever being so livid. Of course, when GM Dean Lombardi criticized the replay staff in Toronto, he got fined by the league and everything was swept under the rug as if there was no reason to question Hanzal’s goal – yet when the Kings benefitted from a clock malfunction against Columbus earlier this month, the league and everyone else decide to scream bloody murder and even suggested taking a point away from the Kings. How do you figure that?
Unless the Kings or Coyotes win the division and the other team finishes 6th in the West, we won’t likely be seeing a first-round playoff matchup between the two clubs – although nothing would give me more pleasure. In fact, considering how much the Kings have been struggling lately, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of motivation or incentive to finish in the Top 8. Of course, the possibility of facing the Coyotes is a huge exception.
I suppose it’s a blessing in disguise that the Kings and Coyotes don’t play again this season since I can be much more calm watching the games from here on in – that is until the Kings play the Ducks and the Sharks. Los Angeles plays Anaheim twice in March and San Jose twice in April. The Kings have to wait until the final two games of the regular season to face the Sharks and as the old saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.”
Photo: Courtesy of Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press