It may not have been pretty, but right now, I think the Kings were in a situation where they had to take a win any way they could get one.
Yes, the Kings may have extended their streak of scoring two or fewer goals to 10 consecutive games. Yes, they once again took a large number of shots (41, the same amount they had in Boston) but didn’t have many goals to show for it. Yes, they continue to be useless on the power-play. Yes, their league-worst goals per game average got even lower. Yes, they once again didn’t seem to find their game until the third period. Yes, they were only able to manage a couple of goals against Columbus. However, there were also positives to take from this game.
Of course, none more than the two points. The Kings ended their five-game losing streak, picked up their first win without Mike Richards and picked up their first win under John Stevens. In the third period, the Kings finally seemed to realize why they may not be scoring despite all of these shots, which is largely because of a lack of net presence. On Davis Drewiske’s goal, Dustin Brown was right in front of Curtis Sanford and giving him a heck of a time trying to deal with the incoming shot. Then, Brown was doing more dirty work in front of the net, and tipped in Drew Doughty’s shot. Hopefully they realize this is a big reason why they weren’t scoring, and a big reason why they did score tonight, and they start to continue to do it. No matter how much Terry Murray preached net presence, they struggled with it this year without guys like Michal Handzus, Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds. However, they still have guys like Dustin Penner and Dustin Brown for net presence, both of whom had strong games tonight and the net presence provided by Brown was a big part of both Kings goals.
Two goals in a single period is an incredibly rare occurrence from this year’s Kings. They were able to do it in the third period, and hopefully that, along with a win, will be enough to get them some confidence and swagger back and can finally open the floodgates offensively. They’ll need it going forward, because a 2-1 win over Columbus is nothing to brag about, and they’ll need to be better than they were tonight if they want to even think about getting a win in Detroit on Saturday. They’re capable of it, but in order to pull it off, they’ll need to be better. A good feeling around the team after finally getting a win and overcoming a third period deficit by finally scoring a couple of goals should help their confidence and help them be better.
Another positive tonight was Jonathan Quick. Quick hasn’t been at his best lately, but tonight had a strong game, surrendering only one goal and making 24 saves, including a handful of big saves at the end to help the Kings hold on for the victory.
Well, was tonight the end of their slump, or just a win over a bad team? We’ll find out on Saturday when they get a tough test from the Red Wings, where hopefully the Kings will be able to score a few more goals, and perhaps even finally get their power-play going. Getting Mike Richards back will help immensely, and there’s reason for optimism that he may not be out that much longer. Richards, who has missed the last six games with a concussion, is going to fly to Detroit tomorrow to join the team. He’s not yet been cleared to practice, but he’s flying up to do workouts with the team. He’s also been doing on-ice workouts now and Dean Lombardi says things are moving in the right direction with him. He’s not expected to play on this road trip in Detroit on Saturday and in Toronto on Monday, but hopefully he can start practicing soon and will be able to start playing shortly after the road trip concludes. You just never know with concussions, so you hope that things continue to progress without any setbacks.
Before we get set for the Red Wings, let’s recap this win in Columbus…
1st period: The Kings outshot the Blue Jackets 17-6 in the opening frame, but guess what? No goals! Shocking, right? Their best chance was a 2-on-1 break with Anze Kopitar and Simon Gagne, but Kopitar, coming down the left, held on too long and was stopped by Curtis Sanford. By the way, Gagne may not have scored in the last million games (kidding, it’s *only* 12), but he had an assist tonight and was a plus-1. Hopefully his goalless drought will end at the same number of games as the number he wears on his jersey. However, he took a hooking penalty just six seconds into the game, breaking Slava Voynov’s record when he took a interference penalty just 18 seconds into the last game in Boston. The Kings had more first period penalty trouble in this one, but the Jackets went 0-for-2 on the power-play, while the Kings’ terrible power-play as of late shockingly went 0-for-1. Also in the first period, Drew Doughty, who, for the most part, had a good game, made a nice play to dive behind Jonathan Quick with the Blue Jackets buzzing around to keep the puck out of the net.
2nd period: Columbus got on the board late in the frame, at the 16:43 mark. Vinny Prospal’s shot through traffic hit Jeff Carter and took an odd bounce into the net, the type of bounce lately that always goes against the Kings and the Kings never get in their favour. Carter’s seventh goal of the season was also assisted by Nikita Nikitin. The Kings surrendered the first goal despite outshooting the Jackets 25-13 at the time. Each team went 0-for-1 on the power-play in the frame, while LA outshot Columbus 9-8. Alec Martinez took a cross checking penalty and Rick Nash took a holding the stick penalty at the 19:54 mark, setting up 1:54 of 4-on-4 play to start the third period. The Kings trailed after two periods, not a good sign considering they were 0-12-1 on the season when trailing after the second period coming into tonight.
3rd period: John Stevens made a curious decision to scratch Slava Voynov in favour of both Alec Martinez and Davis Drewiske for this game. With the Kings desperate for offense, scratching the guy who has arguably been their best offensive defenseman this year didn’t seem like the smartest thing to do. However, Voynov had a rough game against Boston, and a reminder to him that he’s just an unproven rookie who hasn’t earned anything yet can’t hurt him and a game watching from the press box and a chance to get a break and sort of reset, mentally and physically, shouldn’t hurt either. It turned out to be a good decision for the Kings anyways, because who else but Davis Drewiske would tie the game at the 4:33 mark. Drewiske got the puck at the top of the left point from Kopitar and fired a high wrist shot that beat Curtis Sanford with Dustin Brown providing the screen in front. Brown also got an assist. The celebration and look of relief on all of the Kings’ faces after the goal was incredible. The goal ended a miserable run of 130:35 without a goal and 168:01 without an even-strength goal. If Drewiske hadn’t scored in this game, it would have been his 85th consecutive game without a goal. It was his first goal in over two years, since October 6th, 2009, against the Sharks. It was the second goal of his career, as well as his first goal away from Staples Center and his first goal that didn’t come on an empty net. After going that long without a goal, the Kings got another one just 3:39 later. Drew Doughty’s low shot from the right point got redirected up high by Dustin Brown and by Sanford at the 8:12 mark, for Brown’s sixth goal of the season. Simon Gagne also got an assist. The team with the fewest even-strength goals in the NHL this season had a pair of them less than four minutes apart. The Blue Jackets applied pressure late, but Jonathan Quick stood his ground and the Kings held on for the 2-1 regulation win. Neither team had a power-play in the third. The Jackets went 0-for-3 on the power-play in the game, while the Kings went 0-for-2. Los Angeles outshot Columbus 15-11 in the period, and 41-25 on the night. As mentioned earlier, it was the second straight game where the Kings recorded 41 shots on goal.
Well, after a relieving victory, the Kings will hope to get another one and keep the offense going in Detroit on Saturday. Stay tuned for a game preview coming sometime before the puck drops at 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT at Joe Louis Arena.
NOTE: It now looks like Darryl Sutter won’t be named the head coach of the Kings until maybe on Tuesday, meaning it appears that John Stevens will finish the next two games of this road trip as the interim head coach. The Flames are being greedy and want compensation for Sutter, and there are immigration issues for Sutter to figure out.