Kings Ring in New Year with Decisive 4-1 Victory

Brad Richardson (15) and Andrei Loktionov (48) celebrate a first period goal. (photo courtesy of NHL.com)

Prior to tonight’s game, head coach Darryl Sutter boasted that his team’s power play was “awesome.” Yes, the same power play unit that has capitalized on two of the previous forty-two chances. But 9:03 into the third period of tonight’s tilt with the Vancouver Canucks, Sutter’s high praise looked like it may have been spot on.

When presented with their fifth man-advantage of the evening, Justin Williams deflected a perfect wrist shot from Slava Voynov into the Vancouver net, giving his team a commanding 4-1 lead. The goal could not have come at a more perfect time. It was a huge goal in a huge moment and the home squad failed to look back from that point on before the clock struck zero.

Earlier Kings’ goals were registered by Brad Richardson, Matt Greene, and Anze Kopitar. It was the first time in seventeen games that the offensively-gifted, yet slumping Kopitar scored. His reemergence into the team’s offensive production will only yield positive results down the road.

Greene’s tally was his second of the season and Richardson recorded his third. As a team, the Kings scored more than two goals for only the second time in nearly a month and a half.

Jonathan Quick allowed a goal on the very first shot he saw—an admittedly magnificent one-timer from Kevin Bieksa—but remained solid throughout the next fifty-six minutes of play. He stopped the next twenty-seven shots with relative ease.

After the game, Sutter happily fielded questions from reporters who asked whether or not tonight’s performance was the best he has seen in his brief tenure: “I think we’ve been playing pretty good…there’s a lot of steps we’ve tried to make and tonight we got contributions from different guys, which was really good.”

Perhaps Sutter’s most noticeable change that he has brought to the club is the faster, more aggressive, and more offensively-minded game that the players have bought in to. A defenseman has found himself on the score sheet in just about every game since Sutter took the reins, and by no accident either.

The Kings appear to have ended 2011 on a rather positive note, as they are definitely on the upswing from this point forward. Sutter’s squad is still undefeated in regulation in his six games as coach and don’t look to back down at any point soon. Upcoming games versus Colorado, Columbus, Washington, and Dallas—talented, yet struggling organizations of late—will be welcomed to the Staples Center with open arms.

Other words to summarize the team’s performance as of late may be few, but one thing is for certain: when this team is firing on all cylinders and finally buying into their head coach’s system, they remain one of the most exciting teams to watch in the entire league.