Game 11; 7-4-0
LOS ANGELES – Whether you want to think of the glass as half-empty and suggest that they surrendered a significant or take the half-full approach and reward them on their resilience (I prefer the latter), the Los Angeles Kings nonetheless won their first meeting of the season versus the Phoenix Coyotes – and that’s all that matters when the game’s all said and done.
If Kings’ fans were hoping for both a fast start and a lot of offense from their team, they got both on Thursday. Just 42 seconds into the game, on the poweplay, Anze Kopitar swung out in front of the Phoenix net as he potted his first of the year to open the scoring. As productive as the Slovenian has been thus far, it is hard to imagine his goal on Thursday was just his first of the season – but I digress.
The silver-and-black had the early lead but they weren’t content to simply sit on it, at least not yet.
Less than four minutes later, Kopitar contributed to the scoring again, this time setting up Dwight King for his second of the campaign to put Los Angeles up by a pair.
Just over the halfway mark of the first, Jordan Nolan added to the fun, wristing his second of the year home before Dwight King scored again, tipping in a Robyn Regehr point shot, ending netminder Mike Smith’s night who was pulled after allowing those four goals on 15 shots.
With the Desert Dogs seemingly down-and-out, they mounted a comeback beginning with former King Jeff Halpern’s first as a Coyote 10:27 into the second. Just under four minutes later, Martin Hanzal’s backhand shot found the back of the net for his third. Just like that, Los Angeles’s once-convincing lead was cut in half.
On the power play just one minute into the third, Phoenix wasting little time taking advantage as Martin Hanzal banked a shot off the back of Jonathan Quick’s skate and in for his second of the night. Then, just 59 seconds later, it was the always-popular Shane Doan who slapped his second of the year past Quick to tie the game.
Suddenly, it was a brand new game with the wheels completely falling off for the Kings – or so it seemed.
Shortly following Doan’s goal, the Coyotes were back on the power play with a chance to take the lead. Mike Richards, however, had other plans as he stripped the Phoenix defender of the puck before beating Tomas Greiss on a breakaway to regain the Los Angeles lead and, in the process, restore life at Staples Center.
While the Kings did have the lead again, no one at Staples Center was breathing easy just yet. The score remained 5-4 until the 12:11 mark when Matt Frattin potted his first as a King to give the home side that all-too-important insurance marker.
Then, to add the period on the paragraph that was a wild Thursday evening, Dwight King completed the hat-trick by scoring on the empty net.
Final score: Los Angeles 7, Phoenix 4.
While their 1-for-5 mark wasn’t anything special, Los Angeles’s power play was still nevertheless decent. While they did allow a power play goal themselves, the Kings’ penalty-killing was much better than it was on Monday night versus Calgary. Plus, the silver-and-black only had four penalties. While not great, that certainly isn’t terrible.
After Los Angeles outshot Phoenix 15-5 in the first, the two clubs were dead-even in shots in each of the next two periods.
Aside from Mike Smith, the other two goaltenders played well. Jonathan Quick may not have wanted to allow four goals but his 24-save performance is certainly a fine example of No. 32’s consistent reliability between the pipes. Tomas Greiss deserves a plethora of credit as well having entered the game down four goals but giving his team a chance to win, stopping 20 of the 22 shots he faced. Even the aforementioned Smith can’t be blamed too much. After all, he did face an onslaught before being chased from the net.
I was very impressed with Los Angeles’s quick start and their ability to keep pouring it on for the rest of the first period. Unfortunately, it seemed like they took their foot off the gas in the second and just had a hard time stopping the bleeding.
Thankfully, and I eluded to this before, the Kings’ resiliency was a big plus from Thursday and, I believe, it’s what won them this game.
Having had such an off-year offensively last season and admittedly skeptical of his performance this year, it was gratifying to see Dwight King not only score but earn his first-career hat-trick in the NHL. Even Jordan Nolan, another King I was skeptical of heading into the season, scored. He may not have had as many as his teammate but he contributed nonetheless.
As for Anze Kopitar, while his goalless drought may not have put the Slovenian on the hot seat by any means, I am sure it is relieving for No. 11 to finally have his first goal on the season. The two assists he added en route to the win certainly didn’t hurt either.
As for their penalty-killing, I would like to see the Kings stayed out of the box less and, compared to their game against the Flames earlier this week, they are certainly getting better. On the flip side, the Kings, did score two shorthanded goals in as many games so maybe sitting for a couple of minutes isn’t the worst thing to happen to the silver-and-black.
Overall, the Los Angeles Kings turned a negative into a positive before leaving their fans energized with a big win over one of their team’s most hated rivals.
We’ll see if the Kings can continue their volition on Sunday when they host Taylor Hall and the Edmonton Oilers.