Game 67; 38-23-6
LOS ANGELES – They returned home hoping to match a franchise-record winning streaks going nine-straight games with a loss. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be on this night as the Toronto Maple Leafs halted the winning streak of the Los Angeles Kings, handing them their first loss since the Olympic break.
While the main storyline heading into this matchup was the return of former Los Angeles netminder Jonathan Bernier, the evening started off with the Kings honouring their long-time color analyst and former player Jim Fox as part of the team’s Legends Night series. But despite a fast start, the Kings did not get the end result they were hoping for.
Donning their vintage royal blue uniforms, the Kings got things started the right way as Marian Gaborik, in his first game at Staples Center as a King, opened the scoring just 1:57 into the contest. Drew Doughty and Justin Williams helped out with the assists.
Fans would have to wait to see another goal but it was worth the wait. At the 16:05 mark of the first and on the power play, the Kings added some insurance as Anze Kopitar took a beautiful pass in front from Drew Doughty to one-time his 21st past his former teammate. Marian Gaborik picked up his second point of the evening with the assist.
In that first period, the goaltending duel between the two Jonathans, Quick and Bernier, lived up to its billing. The Leafs outshot the Kings 15-10 in the first but both netminders stood tall, but it was the home team with the advantage holding a 2-1 lead. In the final two minutes of the first, Dion Phaneuf put Toronto on the board with a power play goal.
Unfortunately for those wanting more from the Quick vs. Bernier matchup wouldn’t get it as the former King left the game after the first with what was reported as a lower-body injury. James Reimer started the second between the pipes for Toronto and despite his struggles this season, was coming off a 42-save performance in San Jose just two nights earlier. To the chagrin of the Kings fans in attendance, Reimer continued to roll.
At the 3:46 mark of the second, Leafs’ defenseman Carl Gunnarsson slapped a point shot that Jonathan Quick should have had. Nevertheless, the Swedish blueliner had his second of the year and the game was tied. But despite being outshot 17-8, the Leafs held strong, entering the third tied.
In the third, the Kings had their share of chances. They would outshoot Toronto 14-8 in the third but did not manage to score. In fact, with Los Angeles on the power play, Anze Koptar had a glorious opportunity to score but Reimer made the first save before the Slovenian missed wide. From there, James van Riesmdyk and Mason Raymond broke out on a 2-on-1 with Raymond making no mistake, beating Quick for his 19th, a shorthanded tally, to give Toronto their first lead of the night.
The Kings pressed but their chances were few and far in between in that third frame while Reimer was good when he had to be, filling in admirably for the injured Bernier. Reimer stopped all 31 shots he faced helping the Maple Leafs not only spoil Jim Fox’s big night but preventing head coach Darryl Sutter from reaching the 500-win plateau. Also, Jonathan Quick has to wait another day to tie Rogie Vachon’s franchise wins mark while the Kings see their season-high eight-game win streak come to an end.
Thursday evening also marked the 100th-consecutive home sellout for the Los Angeles Kings (playoffs included) but many of those fans at Staples Center were forced to go home disappointed.
While parts of the second and third period were choppy, the Los Angeles Kings looked good despite the loss. It was a great back-and-forth game for a while and even though the Leafs took a third-period lead, the home team certainly did not go down without a fight. Not every save he made was tough but James Reimer certainly made the timely stops when he needed to and on this night, that stood as the difference.
Depending on who you ask, this loss could be viewed as a setback for the Kings. I certainly don’t agree with that but any loss is disappointing – of course, that’s just pointing out the obvious.
The Leafs and Kings finish their series split with Toronto ending their seven-game losing streak against their old rivals from Hollywood.
As for the Kings, it’s a day off before continuing their homestand for a big Saturday matchup against ther crosstown rivals, the hated Anaheim Ducks.