The lead-up, the game-tying goal with under a minute left, the shootout game-winner – it all seemed entirely appropriate.
With the effort that they produced in a 3-2 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, Hockey Karma began to shine favorably again on a Los Angeles Kings team that battled through some adversity on its three-game road trip before winning for the first time on home ice in the abbreviated 2013 season.
Despite a 2-0 deficit after a period and a half of generally inspired but occasionally uneven play, a resilient Kings team continued to out-chance, out-hit and out-work a Canucks team that lost some of its legs while playing deep into the second game on back-to-back nights.
“We emptied the tank and our guys did what they had to do against the Stanley Cup Champions. We battled real hard,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault, though similar words could be said about his opponents.
Despite carrying the flow of play and outshooting the visitors 28-23, Los Angeles outhit the Canucks 35-23, with Jarret Stoll accounting for a team-high hits. Jordan Nolan, never to be outdone in that category, registered five hits in 11:20 of ice time and outhit any individual on the opposite bench.
If not for Vancouver’s 20 blocked shots and a terrific performance in net by Roberto Luongo, this game likely wouldn’t have needed a shootout. The Canucks can be credited with a strong road effort, but a physical, competitive Kings team produced their best effort of the season to date and appeared to take a step forward in getting to where they’d like to be at this point of the season.
“We’re still not the way we were in June last year, but we’re getting there,” Anze Kopitar said. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction. We still have to work on things. I think and everybody else in here thinks that we can crank it up a notch, too. We want to make sure we build on this win and roll ahead.”
Among the positive developments was L.A.’s success on the power play. Jeff Carter’s second period goal that brought the team within one also ended an 0-for-25 streak to begin the season. Prior to tonight, the Kings’ last power play goal belonged to Trevor Lewis at the tail end of Steve Bernier’s five minute boarding major in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“It doesn’t really matter if it’s pretty or not, but as I said before, we need timely power play goals, and tonight was one of those,” Kopitar said.
Though he faulted himself on Alex Burrows’ wraparound goal that put Vancouver ahead 2-0 in the second period, Jonathan Quick made a handful of quality saves on scrums and broken plays, even if most of the action took place on the other end of the ice when the game progressed. He stopped all three shooters in the shootout, and spoke of the team’s direction following the game.
“We’ve got work to do,” Quick said. “There are definitely mistakes being made, and there were a lot of great plays as well. It was two points.”
The Kings’ comeback came as Darryl Sutter juggled the lines through parts of the second and third periods as an effort to “create a little bit more in terms of their work and their forecheck,” according to Los Angeles’ coach.
“It was a little bit of a lottery out there,” Kopitar said. “Whoever got the call, really, you jump.”
It was an encouraging development for a team that won’t skate on Tuesday before practicing on Wednesday and welcoming the Nashville Predators to Staples Center on Thursday (FOX Sports West / 7:30 pm). Including a game in Anaheim on Saturday, they’ll have embarked on their longest roadtrip of the season when the weekend rolls around.
The Kings won’t be looking that far ahead. They’ll have one thing on their mind on Thursday – well, two things, actually.
“Any time you get two points, you get a little boost of confidence,” Quick said. “I think it’s only good for tonight. You’ve got two days in between games now, and we’ve got to use our time properly to be able to take that momentum into Thursday night.”