Kings Finish Strong, Head to St. Louis
When the schedule came out, this final game against San Jose stuck out like a sore thumb. There was a feeling the two teams would be fighting for something. The something turned out to be a fight for the five-seed and the opportunity to open in St. Louis. The loser will open in Vancouver.
Okay. That's a bit anticlimatic. I don't think one matchup is more favorable than the other for the Kings. And listening to head coach Darryl Sutter down the stretch, the only thing he really cared about was making the playoffs.
Of course it would be nice to enter the playoffs on a good note though it's not necessary as the Kings proved last season. They blew a chance to get the three-seed when they lost the final two regular season games to the Sharks before going on a 16-4 playoff run to win the Stanley Cup as the eight-seed.
But it would be nice especially against the hated San Jose Sharks who are the last active California NHL team to be without a Stanley Cup. Besides the last thing we need are those Silicon Valley twits feeling proud of themselves.
"We weren't really worried about the result tonight," goaltender Jonathan Quick admitted. "We just wanted to play a good game."
The Kings did just that with their 3-2 win over the Sharks.
The Kings had many chances to score in the first period only to have Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi sweep aside every attempt. As the Kings came out for the second period, they remained on the attack. A shot by Anze Kopitar in the opening minute of the period landed right behind Niemi on the paint. Kyle Clifford, on the line with Jeff Carter thanks to Dustin Brown's suspension, tapped the fat puck home to sent the STAPLES Center crowd rejoicing.
The rejoicing lasted 49 seconds until Logan Couture split Rob Scuderi and Slava Voynov for the unassisted equalizer.
From there it seemed like the tide shifted in favor of the Sharks who started dominating the play on the ice. Then the fourth line of Jordan Nolan, Brad Richardson and Tyler Toffoli came in. Slava Voynov got a shot from the right point that deflected off of traffic in front of the net past Niemi to give the Kings the lead again.
The teams exchanged goals in the third period to end the regular season.
"I think tonight was a pretty good finish to the season," Anze Kopitar said. "I thought we played a pretty solid game and against a pretty solid team."
Of note was the Kings not taking a penalty in the game, the first time they've done that since Feb. 19, 1977 against the Boston Bruins. And in this often contentious series, the Sharks only took one penalty.
"I think both teams were trying to get through the finish line and get ready for the playoffs," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said.
Quick made 23 saves for the Kings and Niemi made 24.
The Kings will jet over to St. Louis to face the Blues in the first round. They will be flying on Sunday and presumably start the series on Tuesday. The playoff schedule will be announced Sunday night by the NHL.
And for the Kings it is time to turn the page.
"The regular season is over," head coach Darryl Sutter said. Sutter said that whatever happened during the regular season was irrelevant, that the only thing that matters is what happens on Tuesday.
That is Sutter at his best.
The Kings announced the winners of their year-end awards as voted by the media, players, booster club and Kings Care Foundation.
Bill Libby Memorial Award (MVP) - Jeff Carter
Mark Bavis Memorial Award (Newcomer) - Jake Muzzin
Outstanding Defenseman - Drew Doughty
Defensive Player - Anze Kopitar
Ace Bailey Memorial Award (Most Inspirational Player) - Matt Greene
Unsung Hero - Trevor Lewis
Most Popular Player - Dustin Brown
King Care Foundation:
Community Service - Jonathan Quick
Also, Kopitar for the sixth straight season finished as the team's leading scorer. The only other Kings to lead the team in scoring for six consecutive seasons was Marcel Dionne who did for eight consecutive seasons from 1975-76 to 1982-83.