Game 16; 10-6-0
LOS ANGELES – After being off for nearly a week, there would naturally be concern about the Los Angeles Kings having rust. Such concerns were put to rest, however, as the Kings shut out the visiting Buffalo Sabres to get back into the win column.
While they did enter Staples Center on Thursday night with a league-worst 3-13-1 mark, the Sabres were not taken lightly, especially after coming off a shootout in Anaheim a couple nights earlier.
While they have been notorious for heavily outshooting their opposition thus far, the Kings didn’t exactly put on a shooting clinic on this night and, being somewhat of a theme for the silver-and-black this year, showed that quality reigned supreme over quantity.
Slightly outshooting the Sabres 8-7 in the opening period, there was nothing from an offensive standpoint to report. That is until the final minute when, with Los Angeles on the power play, Mike Richards tipped a Jake Muzzin shot home to open the scoring. Tyler Toffoli, in his second game with the big club this season, recorded the other assist – his second in as many games.
In the second, the Kings worked even harder generating 12 shots to Buffalo’s five before scoring, again on the power play, at the 12:18 mark when Anze Kopitar slapped his fourth past Jhonas Enroth to make it 2-0 Los Angeles. Drew Doughty and Mike Richards assisted on the tally.
After outshooting the Sabres 8-7 in the third, the Kings couldn’t generate any more offense – but it didn’t matter as they defeat the Sabres 2-0 and enter their Saturday night tilt with the hated Canucks with an edge, even if it did come from beating the league’s worst team. With that said, though, despite Buffalo’s place in the overall standings, Los Angeles’s win should not be taken any less seriously than, say, a win over San Jose or Chicago.
A win’s a win and the Kings can certainly chalk this one up as a solid defensive effort. Los Angeles’s penalty-kill, which has been somewhat of an Achilles’ heel, was flawless killing off all four of their penalties. With seven different Kings blocking shots, the home team’s defensive game couldn’t have been any better. Jake Muzzin, who has been given a fair deal of criticism for his shoddy defensive play in the past, certainly showed up on Thursday helping to leave the Sabres offense frustrated all night long.
Physically, the Kings did what they do best. Kyle Clifford and Dustin Brown led the way with five hits each while Slava Voynov chipped in with three hits.
While Mike Richards scored a goal and an assist, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the game’s first star, Jonathan Quick.
While he wasn’t as busy as his counterpart, Quick turned away all 19 shots he faced earning his 26th-career shutout in what was his 300th-career game.
While he still gets (what I believe, at least) an unfair amount of abuse (mostly from outsiders) for not playing like he did during the 2012 playoffs, Jonathan Quick proved that he is as reliable as the Los Angeles Kings know him to be. If a performance like this was needed against a team like Buffalo, then so be it. Quick got the job done and that’s all that matters.
With the Sabres now behind them, the Kings will focus their attention to Saturday night when they host the aforementioned Vancouver Canucks in what will be the first meeting between the two clubs as division rivals after a long hiatus.