While the struggling Kings offense may not have exploded, you can’t always choose how you’re going to beat a team like the Sharks. Especially for this Kings team, just beating a team like San Jose in any way was a very good thing, and largely thanks to the brilliant play of Jonathan Quick, the Kings were able to do that on Monday night before a sellout crowd of 18,118 at Staples Center.
In his 200th career NHL regular season game, Quick recorded his 18th shutout, and fourth of this season, which leads the National Hockey League. It was the first time that the Kings had shutout the Sharks at Staples Center since March 23rd, 2002. Felix Potvin was in goal for the Kings that night, but only had to make 17 saves. Quick had to work for this one, facing five San Jose power plays and was peppered with 33 shots. He kept all of them out, though, thanks to some brilliant play of his own, and some help from the post. You’ve got to be good to be lucky, right?
Although it was a great night for Quick, the Kings were only able to muster a pair of goals, and two nights after failing to take advantage of the league’s worst penalty kill, they were unable to take advantage of the league’s third-worst penalty kill. The Kings power play has been mightily struggling of late, now mired in an atrocious 1-for-19 slump. For a team that struggles to score so much at even strength, that is not good news, and helps to explain why the Kings have only scored nine goals in their last five games.
On the other side of things, after going through a rough stretch, the Kings have killed off 18 consecutive penalties, and the penalty kill came up huge in this game, as the Kings took many penalties, and with only a two-goal lead against a team like the Sharks, they were really playing with fire. But, the penalty kill got the job done. Also, as I said earlier, when you’re playing a team like the Sharks, you can’t be upset about how you win, even if some of the problems that the team is having continue. You just need to be happy about getting the win. Coming into last night, the Sharks were 7-2-0 on the road, hadn’t had a road loss in November (a misleading stat, as other than last night, they’d played only two other games away from San Jose all month), and had given up just seven goals in their last five games. So, scoring a bunch of goals probably wasn’t going to happen. Being able to get the win, however they did it, is definitely a positive and something to build on.
It’s not like the offense was completely inept, either. Against a team as good as San Jose, the Kings put on a lot of good pressure, created quality chances, had 33 shots on Niemi, and probably should have had more goals, if not for the recent power play struggles. They probably should have had a third goal anyways, but instant replay ruled that Slava Voynov kicked the puck into the net. To me, it certainly looked like Dustin Brown (easily the most snake-bitten player in the NHL) used his stick to shoot the puck into the net. At the end of day though, it didn’t matter.
The Kings will prepare to host the Florida Panthers on Thursday, but before we get set for that, let’s recap Monday’s win over the Sharks…
1st period: With all of the quality scoring chances that just wouldn’t go in for them, it was only fitting that the Kings’ first goal of this night was complete garbage. To the right of Niemi, the puck sqeaked out to Ethan Moreau from behind the net, and from just above the red line and near the boards, Moreau immediately just fired a low knuckler from a terrible angle that somehow found it’s way by Antti Niemi at the 8:37 mark. It may have hit Torrey Mitchell on its way to the net, but it was still a brutal goal for Niemi to allow. But, Moreau will certainly take it, as the unnassisted goal was his first as a King, and first since October 9th, 2010, when he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets. That goal was an overtime winner, and was also against the Sharks. The Kings outshot the Sharks 16-11 in the opening frame, and went 0-for-1 on the power play. The Sharks did not have one.
2nd period: Coincidental minor penalties to Jarret Stoll and Joe Thornton (I’ll take that trade off…) meant 4-on-4 play for two minutes, and just 15 seconds after the 4-on-4 play commenced, at the 4:16 mark of the second period, the Kings had taken a two-goal lead. Simon Gagne got the puck behind the Sharks net and fed a sweet pass out in front to Mike Richards who put it by Niemi. Willie Mitchell also got an assist. After having his goal-streak snapped, Richards was right back at it, and finishes November with nine goals, which currently ties him with Jonathan Toews for the most goals in the NHL for this month. He now has a team-high 11 goals on the season. The shots were even at 9-9 in the period. Los Angeles went 0-for-1 on the power play, while San Jose went 0-for-3.
3rd period: San Jose turned it on in the third period, outshooting LA 13-8, but the Kings played excellent defense and were backed with excellent goaltending, and the Sharks couldn’t get anything in. The Kings went 0-for-1 on the power play in the third, while the Sharks went 0-for-2. The Kings went 0-for-3 on the night, while the Sharks went 0-for-5. A scrum between the two teams ensued at the end of the game, and Ryan Clowe ended up getting a pair of roughing minors, while Jack Johnson got a single roughing minor. Of course, all that those penalties do is pad their penalty minutes. At the 6:03 mark, there was the non-goal, as Dustin Brown made a filthy move to get through Justin Braun, then took it to the net and him and Slava Voynov tried to jam it in, and after the puck went it, it was determined with video replay that Voynov kicked it in, rather than Brown shooting it in.
Also, the Kings announced before the game that Scott Parse would miss the rest of the season as he will undergo hip surgery. Parse will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, and with him only playing a handful of games over the last couple of years, it’s probably unlikely that the Kings will re-sign him. It’s too bad, maybe he could have been a productive player if he could have stayed healthy. But I wouldn’t have been counting on it.
However, it does appear that Dustin Penner could be activated off of the injured reserve and could play on Thursday. My guess is that Andrei Loktionov will be sent down to make room for him, and although I like Loktionov a lot, he’s not being put in a spot up here where he can be used to the best of his abilities, and he could definitely still stand to get stronger. Playing big minutes in Manchester at centre won’t hurt him, either.
After finally getting a win over an elite Western Conference team, the Kings will look to build on this win when, although they aren’t exactly an elite team in the Eastern Conference yet, they are the new-look, surprising Florida Panthers that the Kings will host on Thursday. Stay tuned for a game preview coming sometime before the puck drops at 10:30 PM ET/7:30 PM PT.
NOTE: Jonathan Quick played in his 200th regular season game as a King on Monday, becoming the sixth goalie in Kings history to do so. I think it’s fair to say that he made it a night to remember.