The Little Kings That Could
They thought they could. They thought they could. The game wasn't pretty.
"It's not pretty," Simon Gagne confirmed. "We still have a lot of work to do."
They do. Missed passes. Linemates skating at different speeds. Coverages busted. Pucks given away in the defensive zone. Five games into the new season things are still looking rough for the Kings. But once the final horn sounded, the scoreboard read a 3-2 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
The opening day loss to the Chicago Blackhawks still resonated among the 18,344 sellout crowd at STAPLES Center.
"We all know how the first game went," Anze Kopitar said. "We wanted to come back strong. We had some chances there in the first [period], but everything was from the outside."
That could be said of the Kings power play. For 25 power play attempts this season, they were affairs close to the boards where prayer was probably the best strategy.
Fortunately for the Kings, the prayer was answered. Right after Christopher Tanev was called for a high stick, a fortunate bounce for the Kings after Vancouver won the faceoff allowed Jeff Carter to get the tally. Bounce or no, prayer or skill, the goal still counts.
That sigh of relief only brought the game to 2-1. Still there on the scoreboard was Zack Kassian's goal in the first period on a rebound off of Jonathan Quick. Still there was Alex Burrows' wraparound that caught Quick off guard.
"That's my fault," Quick said absolving Drew Doughty for biting on the pass. "He had it on his backhand, and as he pulled it to his forehand he opened his blade a little. I bit on the pass — I thought he was passing it out shortside. That's why I turned. He made a nice move to the net, and I wasn't able to get there in time."
It looked like the Kings were on their way to a 1-3-1 record. But they suddenly pulled of what the Edmonton Oilers pulled on them on Thursday. With Quick on the bench for the extra attacker, Kopitar gets the puck out to Slava Voynov at the right point. Voynov shoots through traffic, and the puck got behind Roberto Luongo for the equalizer.
After staving off the Canucks in overtime, Carter scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Kings a 2-2-1 record good for five points and eighth in the Western Conference. Yes, I'm checking the standings.
"We're still not the way we were in June last year," Kopitar said. "But we're getting there. It's definitely a step in the right direction."
The Kings had everything going against them. They were down 2-0. Luongo was standing on his head. The Kings were looking scattered at times on the ice. Despite everything going against them, the Kings pushed through and clawed and scratched out a win. That has to give them some confidence going forward.
"Anytime you get two points you get a little boost of confidence," Quick downplayed after making 21 saves. "It's only good for tonight. We've got two days in between games now. We've got to use our time properly to be able to take the momentum into Thursday night.
"Depending on how we handle the next two days, maybe it will carry it over if we do it well."
One thing is certain. The Kings are not practicing on Tuesday.
The Kings did learn a crucial lesson in this game.
"We've started to understand its going to be a battle every night," Gagne said. "We can't take a night off. We have to expect them to play their best game."
"We emptied the tank," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our guys did what they had to do against the Stanley Cup Champions. We battled real hard."
"We just came up short," echoed Luongo who made 26 saves.
It is interesting to note the lack of Canucks fans that usually populate STAPLES Center when Vancouver plays in Los Angeles. The natinoal anthems would be rawkous and filled with nationalistic pride. Things were oddly muted on Monday. Perhaps the consequence of winning a Stanley Cup before Vancouver is having less Canucks fans in the audience?