Kings Break Out, Score 4 (!) in Win
For the first time since before Thanksgiving, the Kings scored more than 2 goals in regulation. Happiness is abound. (photo courtesy of NHL.com)
The Kings were still receiving gifts one full day after Christmas had passed. Some were in the form of goals from the unlikeliest of players, while others simply came from the lackluster play of Phoenix goalie Jason LaBarbera, who was given a third straight start with the injury to lead goaltender Mike Smith. Nonetheless, the Kings took the offensive bump in stride and defeated the Coyotes by a score of 4-3.
Rob Scuderi, Willie Mitchell, and Brad Richardson scored the first three Kings goals of the evening. All of the scoring attempts came from shots from the point which found a way to the back of the net. By and large, the defensemen were much more involved with the offensive attack than they have ever been during this season.
Dustin Brown added the final Kings tally of the evening, and the squad held off a late Phoenix surge to keep the score ultimately in their favor. And yes, Los Angeles snapped a 14-game streak in which they had not scored more than two goals in regulation. The slump dated back to a week before Thanksgiving, to a time when the thought of former bench boss Terry Murray’s termination seemed anything but imminent. (Ok, maybe not in that sense. But it’s just worth noting that it was a really long time ago).
The Kings outshot Phoenix 35-29, and Quick stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced for his fifteenth win of the year. LaBarbera was chased after the final Los Angeles goal of the game, at a little more than seven minutes into the third period. He was clearly frustrated by his inability to stop the seemingly simplest of shots, none more so than the goal by Brown, which was a wrist shot from fifteen feet away with no screen of any sort in front of the goaltender.
The win gave L.A. their thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth point of the season as they now sit a mere two points behind division leading Dallas and San Jose.
It has become fairly obvious that head coach Darryl Sutter intends to utilize his defensemen in several more aspects of the game, whether or not that only leads to a few odd-man rushes going the other way for the opposition. However, when you have a goalie of Jonathan Quick’s caliber, it almost makes it a risk worth taking.
It wasn’t something that necessarily killed Los Angeles tonight—although both of Phoenix’s early goals came off of blocked shots and a subsequent break by Raffi Torres, who netted two goals on two shots during the game. With that being said however, one can imagine what the end result may have been with a little less shaky play from LaBarbera, but that will simply have to be an issue the Kings work out in the upcoming days. Although looming dates with Chicago and Vancouver do little to ease the concern some Kings faithful may be harboring.
A brief injury update: Simon Gagne did not play in the third period and was not even seen on the bench for any of the final twenty minutes. According to LA Kings insider Rich Hammond, the forward got “a little banged up” earlier in the game. That comes from Sutter, who failed to elaborate or hint at anything else. He will be re-evaluated before the flight to Chicago tomorrow.