Clifford, Brown Lift Kings over Ottawa 4-1
Kyle Clifford earned second star of the game honors with his fine performance. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)
Maybe the Kings were just looking so forward to the upcoming All-Star break. It could be the desire this team felt to send lone All-Star Jonathan Quick off to this weekend’s festivities on a high note. Or perhaps it was a disappointing performance from a surging Ottawa club that helped the home team bust out of their scoreless ways and in a rather resounding fashion. But whichever theory you subscribe to, it won’t change the end result as the Kings trounced the Senators 4-1 earlier tonight.
In what can be accurately described as a total team effort on both sides of the night, Los Angeles disposed of their opposition with a very well-played game. Quick stopped all but one of the twenty-eight shots he faced and his team pulled into a tie with San Jose for first place in the Pacific division.
Willie Mitchell opened the contest’s scoring fifteen minutes into the first period. He notched his third of the season with a seeing-eye wrist shot that flew just overtop of Craig Anderson’s outstretched glove. (Fun fact: Veteran defenseman Mitchell now has as many goals as both Dustin Penner and Drew Doughty combined. And we’re fifty games into the season!)
Kyle Clifford earned perhaps the scrappiest goal of the night just as the second period began. Clifford took a wrist shot from a few feet in front of the blue line, chased after his rebound as the puck bounced around in front of the Ottawa net-minder and found and promptly deposited it into the net. Clifford recorded his first career Gordie Howe hat trick with the tally. A fight early in the first period of play saw the rookie forward display some tenacity, which seemingly translated to success in other areas of his game as the evening progressed.
When given over a minute of a five-on-three powerplay in the second periods waning moments, the Kings capitalized. It was Jack Johnson who slapped a shot from the slot past Anderson thanks to a particularly pretty pass from Drew Doughty to set the play up all in the first place.
Then the Kings once again (this season anyway; a blatantly missed offsides call which led to a goal a month ago comes to mind) found themselves on the receiving end of a fairly obvious blown call from the on-ice officials. Prior to Trevor Lewis deking Craig Anderson out of his skates and scoring the fourth goal of the evening on a penalty shot, Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips was accused of closing his hand over the puck while in the crease and amidst a furious scramble for the loose piece of rubber. The replay that was shown by both FOX Sports West and also inside the Staples Center showed that Phillips never covered the puck; much less closed his hand on it. He merely pushed it underneath the body of his goaltender, whether entirely intentional or not. The Ottawa bench, while clearly displeased, didn’t put up much fight in arguing the call.
At the end of the second period however, it wasn’t anything that was going to change and the Kings held a four goal lead with twenty minutes to play. Quick surrendered a goal to end his shutout bid at the twelve minute mark of the third period, but it was anything but a tally worth hanging one’s head in shame over.
Nonetheless, with goal horns blaring as the game clock reached zero, the Kings are now riding a winning streak into a long layoff and resting period for some of the team’s wounded warriors, a feeling that surely must be emitting good vibes throughout the locker room.
It seems worth noting that Dustin Brown was all over the ice tonight, which typically doesn’t come as a surprise when his team is winning. From setting up screens on the goals to lying out and clearing the puck when faced with the penalty kill—the captain earned his ice time tonight.