The Los Angeles Kings and the Arizona Coyotes went toe-to-toe for the first time in the 2016 season on Thursday night.
The Arizona Coyotes played an all-around good game on both ends of the ice. The better team skated away with a victory, though.
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Los Angeles beat the Coyotes thanks in large part to two goals by Jordan Nolan, who came into Thursday night not having scored a goal since April 9, 2015.
Trevor Lewis and Dwight King also added goals for the Kings.
From the drop of the puck, it looked like the night would belong to the Coyotes, literally.
Tyler Toffoli was sent to the penalty box for tripping just nine seconds in the first period. Just 6 seconds later, all 6’6″ of Martin Hanzal deflected a Radim Vrbata shot from the corner and past Peter Budaj, who was making his 22nd straight start for Los Angeles.
24 seconds later, Toffoli went right back to the penalty box, once again for tripping.
The Coyotes did not convert on that power play, and they finished the night 2-6 on the man-advantage.
Coyotes fans know good and well what the Kings are capable of.
Just when Arizona appeared to seize complete control from the drop of the puck, the Kings once again took the hearts of Coyotes fans and burned it.
They have been doing that since 2012, when the Kings beat the Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals.
King buried a shot past Mike Smith on a tic-tac-toe play which started with a broken play for the Coyotes when Alex Goligoski lost control of the puck and Dustin Brown started the other way with Anze Kopitar.
Hanzal gave the Coyotes a huge spark going in to the second period, just as the first period came to a close. His shut came off his stick, quite slowly, and redirected off the stick of Budaj, trickling past him into the back of the net
Jeff Zatkoff replaced Budaj after one period. Budaj allowed 2 goals on just 6 shots.
That decision clearly paid of for the Kings. Zatkoff made 25 critical saves in the final two periods.
One player who was flying on both ends of the ice for the Coyotes on Thursday night was Tobias Rieder.
In the second period, he had two solid shorthanded chances, which is something he has become known for to Coyotes fans.
The German speedster forced a penalty on his second breakaway attempt. He finished the night with a 17:25 ice time, five shots on goal, and a breakaway goal that he finally got past Zatkoff late in the third period.
That goal came just 9 seconds after Jordan Nolan put home his second goal on the night.
Trevor Lewis scored with just over four minutes remaining to give L.A. a 4-3 lead.
The Arizona Coyotes tried to string together a comeback in the last 5 minutes. But the Kings stood tall and went back to Los Angeles with their 13th victory on the season.
What I Saw
I was at the game, sitting in the upper deck, which is a great view to watch any sporting event.
I was highly impressed with the Coyotes breakouts. They were clean, crisp, and precise, right on point with tape to tape passing in the first period.
The second period was a little bit of different story. They had choppy breakouts and it showed as they appeared to slow down and the Kings took full advantage.
I was also impressed with the speed of Tobias Rieder.
Fans know how fast the man really is. You just have to go see it to believe it. I wouldn’t be surprised to the least if we saw Rieder in the Speed Skater Competition at the All Star Game, sooner than later.
As mentioned, he finished the night with a huge goal and 5 big time shots. They Coyotes need to continue to produce at this high level in order for them to have a moderate level of consistancy.
Lastly, I loved how Martin Hanzal used his size when he was screening the goaltender.
We also have come to know and love Marty for his big body presence.
It is clearly evident that his size is a driving force for the Coyotes. Trade rumors have gone left and right with Hanzal the last 2 weeks. I am sure after watching Thursday’s game, 29 other teams are salivating at the bit to get their hands on him.
This guy stepped in for Budaj, who had made 22 straight starts, and stood on his head. The Coyotes got really good chances on Zatkoff, but those shots just didn’t end up behind him in the back of the net.
With Jonathan Quick out, the combination of Budaj with Zatkoff could be a good step for the Kings, but there is no question that Quick needs to get back as soon as he can.
Arizona: Martin Hanzal
Hanzal had two crucial first period goals.
Ok, the second goal could be considered a fluke. But regardless of how it looked, it was still a huge goal that gave the Coyotes a momentum swing going into the second period.
His presence is so important to the Coyotes, especially for the younger players. His leadership, along with Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata, etc., is going to need to be in full display in order for the Coyotes to make strides forward.