Kings Take Scoreless Game to Brink, But Fall in OT
Jack Johnson (3) skates away as Evander Kane (9) and Blake Wheeler (26) celebrate their OT winner. (photo courtesy of NHL.com)
There is an old hockey adage which maintains that one of the strongest yardsticks of a team’s performance and potential lies in how they compete in back-to-back games. Tonight marked the second time in eight days and the sixth time this season in which the Kings have found themselves in such a circumstance. They had previously gained a knack for coming up just a tad short in the second game, and that trend continued tonight in Winnipeg.
The Kings failed to score in the allotted sixty minutes of regulation, but succeeded in holding the Winnipeg Jets without a single tally of their own. That is, until 1:09 into the additional overtime period when Evander Kane swatted a rebound past the outstretched stick of Jonathan Bernier and into the gaping net. The sellout crowd on hand rose to their feet to celebrate the only goal of the evening, and the Kings were dealt their first loss in the last three games.
Bernier was given the spot-start over Jonathan Quick and performed admirably. The Quebec native stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced. It however, was not enough in the end for the Kings. The odd-man rush which led to the final goal could have served as a microcosm for the way the visiting squad performed the entire evening up to that point. Kane slipped by the fatigued Los Angeles defense to fire the initial shot on net, then simply waited patiently for the rebound to poke home amidst a rather sloppy defensive effort. Three Kings were parked in front of Bernier, but not one was able to get a stick on the puck in order to clear it out of harm’s way before it was deposited into the mesh.
Tonight, the Kings played well in most areas. They outshot Winnipeg 31-27. There were times in the contest when it felt as though everything which flew off of their sticks was striking iron—ultimately missing the net but a matter of inches. They killed off a two-man advantage which featured only one real good scoring chance for the opposition at the beginning of the third period. (An aside: the Kings have now killed off twenty-two consecutive power plays dating back to Dec. 17.)
And yet, when it mattered most they simply could not find that extra gear and put this game away when necessary. This is speaking mostly to the missed opportunities on five power plays of their own over the course of tonight’s contest. This included a five-on-three power play for 1:52 late in the second period. The Kings amassed six shots, one or two good looks and…not much else. Not anything else to be exact.
Perhaps fatigue was more of an issue than one might suspect. It certainly looked that way in the waning minutes of regulation and overtime. They are sure to benefit from an upcoming six-game home-stand which lasts the next two weeks.
Yes, one cannot be too finicky when the Kings did walk away with one point, rather than zero. However, just how many outstanding performances from a Los Angeles goaltender can be wasted this season?