Game 17; 11-6-0
LOS ANGELES – Now these are the Los Angeles Kings were are used to seeing. For the first time in 15 years, the Kings and Vancouver Canucks met as division rivals – not that they need anything added to their already-hostile rivalry – but nonetheless, the two clubs kicked off their season series with a bang.
The Canucks, who have come into their own as of late, won two of three from the Kings last season and with Roberto Luongo having gone 7-1-2 in their last 10, it seemed as though the visitors would steal the show at Staples Center. But the Kings had other ideas.
After Los Angeles got off to a fast start, the Canucks took over, determined to set the tone of the game. Jonathan Quick, however, was having none of it, turning away chance after chance keeping the game scoreless.
The deadlock was ultimately broken but it was courtesy of the home team as Linden Vey, in just his second-career game, made a beautiful individual effort into the Canucks zone before feeding Jordan Nolan, beating Luongo for his third of the year. The goal, scored at 12:23 of the first, left Staples Center rocking – but the Kings weren’t done there.
With just 51 seconds remaining in the first, Los Angeles found themselves with another glorious opportunity they capitalized on. Mike Richards entered the zone, handled the puck flawlessly before feeding Drew Doughty who fed the biscuit cross-crease to Tyler Toffoli who tipped his first of the year past Bobby Lou to put the Kings up by a pair heading into the first intermission.
While the Kings did deserve the lead, the Canucks had plenty of chances not only to enter the intermission tied but with a lead. Jonathan Quick, though, was solid stopping all 13 shots he faced in that opening frame.
In the second, it was more of the back-and-forth variety between the two clubs. The Canucks were finally able to solve Quick as the 8:52 mark of the period, Dan Hamhuis blasted a shot past Los Angeles’s screened netminder to put Vancouver on the board. With that, the Canucks were back in the game – or so they thought.
Just 1:08 after Hamhuis’s tally, Mike Richards wristed his fifth past Luongo to regain Los Angeles’s two-goal lead. Dwight King and Tyler Toffoli helped out with the assists. Then, just 1:46 later, Anze Kopitar, behind the Vancouver net, found a wide-open Justin Williams in front who made no mistake with his sixth of the year. Just when the Canucks thought they were back in the game, the Kings made sure it wasn’t to be. With that, Roberto Luongo was replaced by backup Eddie Lack.
It didn’t take long for Lack to become acquainted with the Kings as just 47 seconds after they made it 4-1, Los Angeles found themselves on a 2-on-1 that looked way too easy as Toffoli passed to Richards who gave it back to Toffoli who tapped home his second of the evening to put the game out of reach. Dwight King recorded his second assist of the night on the goal.
After a scoreless third that saw them outshoot Vancouver 11-4, the Kings clinched their second-straight win and while he didn’t get the shutout like he did on Thursday versus Buffalo, Jonathan Quick was simply outstanding, proving that he was more critical than the 5-1 score indicated.
While the special teams was virtually non-existent for both sides, the Kings knew entering Saturday night that they needed more results with the 5-on-5 – and that is exactly what they got by scoring all five of their goals on full-strength.
Only seconds before Mike Richards made it 3-1, defenseman Jake Muzzin coughed up a puck in his own zone which the Canucks could have used to tie the game. Quick had other plans bailing his D-man out before sending his team the other way to score, ultimately picking up the two points.
If Muzzin’s defensive lapse was the only thing that went wrong for the Kings on Saturday, then that has to be a pretty good night.
Mike Richards had a three-point night, Dwight King had two helpers, Jonathan Quick made 25 saves and even Linden Vey set the tone of the game early with his aforementioned beautiful individual effort that put Los Angeles on the scoreboard. But as scintillating as those respective performances were, Tyler Toffoli deserves just as much, if not more, credit as he scored twice and added an assist which begs the question, why was he sent down to Manchester to begin the season? Nevertheless, if this was Toffoli’s plea to stick with the big club, he did everything right.
While the Kings were physical as usual, the Canucks were just as so on this night, recording 34 hits to Los Angeles’s 35. The Kings also recorded 10 giveaways to Vancouver’s five so there is still something to improve upon. But overall, Saturday night marked a very solid, hard-earned win by the Kings who had everything working from their attack up front to their top-notch goaltending.
\having found the ideal way to close out their homestand, the Kings now move east four games beginning Tuesday night in Buffalo where they look to sweep their season series over the struggling Sabres.