Game 42; 27-12-3
LOS ANGELES — The Detroit Red Wings entered STAPLES Center on Monday riding a four-game winning streak. On Sunday, they had edged the Ducks in Anaheim to improve to 17-3-7 in one-goal games. On paper at least, the Los Angeles Kings appeared to have met their match. But even with a slew of Red Wings fans following the visiting club on their California trip, the silver-and-black were undeterred, ultimately starting the second half on a positive note.
If the Kings were looking for a big splash to start this game, they got it.
With just under three minutes into the contest, Milan Lucic sprang Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli on a 2-on-1 break. On the opportunity, Kopitar showed unbelievable patience as he maneuvered around a sprawled-out Mike Green to pass it to Toffoli, who tipped his 20th past Jimmy Howard. You can be sure that the goal will be on highlight reels on Tuesday morning and even in 2016’s year in review. As for the matter at hand, the Kings had a 1-0 lead.
The Red Wings held tough, however, and with 3:11 remaining in the first, their patience paid off as Tomas Tatar tipped a Darren Helm shot past Jonathan Quick to tie the game. The goal, which Quick had no chance on, was Tatar’s 14th with Pavel Datsyuk picking up the second assist. But the Wings weren’t done there.
Just 2:37 later, Darren Helm and Pavel Datsyuk set up another tally as defenseman Alexey Marchenko wristed a point shot that beat a screened Quick to give Detroit their first lead of the evening. Suddenly, the Kings seemed deflated as the Red Wings enter the intermission with the momentum.
In the second, though, the Kings turned the tide. After a slow start to the period, the silver-and-black picked things up, ultimately controlling the entire tempo of the game. Their efforts, however, did not pay off until the 16:28 mark, and that’s when their power-play prowess became a factor.
With netminder Jimmy Howard called for tripping Jeff Carter, the Kings went on the man-advantage. Already 0-for-1 on the PP, the Kings literally wasted little time in taking advantage as Kopitar sniped his 12th home just seven seconds into the power play to tie the game. Jake Muzzin and Milan Lucic had the assists. For Lucic, it was his second helper of the night.
In the third, the power play struck again for Los Angeles. Just 1:28 into the frame, and with Jonathan Ericsson in the box for hooking, the Kings were pressing when Drew Doughty fed Alec Martinez for a one-timer from the point that beat Howard. The Detroit-area native netted his fifth with Kopitar getting the second assist, his third point on the night.
The Kings were up but they were not content as they played an aggressive style of hockey on both sides of the puck. Even in the final minute, Dwight King‘s aggressive ways led to him breaking away on an empty net where he slid his third home — and arguably the easiest goal he will ever score — to ice the game. Drew Doughty had an assist as did Anze Kopitar, who capped off his four-point night.
The Red Wings see their four-game winning streak come to an end as a result of this contest. Usually teams playing the previous night don’t show much fatigue when facing the Kings but that was a different story in this one as the silver-and-black were hungry and motivated enough to slow down their opposition. They may not have needed much offense but as per usual, their defense came through in making the difference.
One of the newest Kings, Luke Schenn, has certainly made a difference. He shared the lead with Dustin Brown with four hits while the other new King, Vincent Lecavalier, had two hits and two blocked shots, sharing a five-way lead in the latter category. Anze Kopitar had a big night offensively but added four shots as did Michael Mersch. As for Jonathan Quick, his 25-save performance improves his record to 24-9-2 on the year, regaining second place in the league behind only Braden Holtby.
Overall, this is exactly what the Kings needed entering their four-day layoff. Snapping the four-game winning streak of a red-hot Detroit club will certainly do wonders for their confidence as they extend their division lead to 11 points. With that said, though, fans hope that the layoff will not deter their club’s momentum.
Next up, the Kings will play host to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday for a matinee affair.