LOS ANGELES — Welcome to the (semi) restorative powers of the shootout.
A compressed NHL schedule, with so much on the line, and so much at stake, was supposed to curtail those often monotonous early-season contests.
Drama between the Kings and Nasvhille was largely confined to overtime and an eight-round shootout on Thursday night, two rounds shy of a Kings franchise record. The Kings emerged with a point after the defensive standoff in regulation, losing, 2-1, at Staples Center.
Of course, the shootout has a way of erasing what was an often stifling brand of hockey. The Kings have played in consecutive shootouts, winning on Monday against Vancouver and losing against Nashville. Who knows? Maybe the Kings’ team record of 10 rounds — against Edmonton in the 2009-10 season — might fall this season.
The eight rounds were a wild roller-coaster ride for the goalies, the Kings’ Jonathan Quick and the Predators’ Pekka Rinne. Scoring for Kings in the shootout were Mike Richards, Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar. David Legwand, Craig Smith, Gabriel Bourque and Sergei Kostitsyn scored for Nashville.
On and on it went until the eighth round. The Kings’ Simon Gagne could not lift the puck past Rinne, and Kostitsyn clinched it with a measure of deft skill and speed, sliding the puck under a befuddled Quick.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter addressed the issues that were a problem before the shootout.
“We’re still not getting that goal out of players we need to score,” he said. “It comes down to details.”
Said Kings center Jarret Stoll, who missed in the sixth round of the shootout: “We weren’t good at finishing and getting into the scoring areas more. There was a lot of shots blocked and a lot of shots from the outside. We were OK at spurts … didn’t get in those hard areas and get enough traffic in front of Pekka. We just have to push through”.
Long before the game turned into an abyss of scoring chances, there were moments of inspiration in the opening period. Nashville struck in the first minute, a wrist shot from forward Brandon Yip, who scored 58 seconds into the game with a quick-strike play following the draw in the right circle.
The Kings equalized on the power play — a four-on-three advantage — at 13:08, which was notable for several reasons. It was a power-play goal and was Brown’s first of the season.
The play unfolded with a crazy carom off the glass, via Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, and Brown happened to be in the right place at the right time, putting it past Rinne. For Doughty, who has been playing heavy minutes in the absence of injured defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, it was his first point of the season.
The usual suspects were scratched from the Kings’ lineup: forwards Dustin Penner and Brad Richardson and defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk. Penner has not played since the second game of the season, at Colorado on Jan, 22, and has been a healthy scratch for the last four games. Mitchell, who had knee surgery during the lockout, has not skated since a lengthy session Saturday.