By Surly Jacob.
In a game lazier fans were not even awake for, the Los Angeles Kings made full use of the top left corner of the net, scoring two beautifully accurate goals over Islanders’ backstop Martin Biron’s right shoulder to extend their winning streak to four.
Most Kings’ fans were excited to get their first look at John Tavares today. Unfortunately they’ll have to wait to get that look, because even though the stat sheet claims Tavares played 22:58 of the game, you wouldn’t have known it. Tavares was mostly invisible, Kyle Okposo generating most of the Islander’s offensive chances. In fact, the only time Tavares was noticeable was when he was fanning on or shanking one-timers.
The Islanders came at the Kings with speed throughout the game, testing Jonathan Quick often, but only breaking through once in the contest. Late in the game, Matt Moulson scored a rebound goal against his former team to cut the Kings lead in half. Moulson, who is dating Quick’s wife’s sister and sporting a new head of long black hair, has some good joke ammo for the next family get together, but not enough as his goal did nothing to help New York win their first game of the season.
As I predicted in the pregame, at least Islander fans can be happy they didn’t give up a lead.
The Kings were perfect on the penalty kill for the second straight game, killing off three shorthanded chances. They also extinguished the only positive statistical torch the Islanders had lit in the early season, as center Anze Kopitar’s power play goal in the second period was the only one its kind the blue and orange have given up this season. Kopitar’s goal was a pretty one to witness. He took a point pass from Justin Williams and waited patiently for Dustin Brown to block any chance Biron had of seeing the shot that traveled higher than it did forward.
Drew Doughty’s goal in the third was also a crowd pleaser… atleast it was for the crowd watching on TV or listening secretively on the radio at work in Los Angeles. The crowd in New York, not so much. Doughty took a pass at the right face-off circle from Jarret Stoll and ripped a slap shot over Biron’s blocker. No screen, no traffic, only wicked perfection. Doughty, who hopes to get 5 wins before he loses 5 teeth, played another solid game despite having to sport a face mask that would have most kids his age rolling with laughter or sobbing on vicodin.
Teddy Purcell played a game worth pointing out. Receiving the second assist on Doughty’s goal, Purcell made the play possible moments before with a strong back check behind Quick to get the puck out to Stoll. The message of toughness Terry Murray and Dean Lombardi have been drilling in to his head since his demotion down to Manchester last year has worked like a good old fashion Stalin-esque brainwashing. Also playing strong games were the three amigos on the checking line. Alexander Frolov, despite being scoreless, used his body effectively and showed much needed hustle, often reaching deep down for that little extra boost to jump around Islander defenders. How often he shows that hustle will likely go a longer way than his stat sheet towards securing a new contract with the Kings. Michal Handzus also played a defensively dominant game, poke-checking away some of the Islanders’ best opportunities, while Wayne Simmonds out-worked everyone on the ice.
Jonathan Quick earned the NHL’s second star of the week earlier today and made 28 of 29 saves to stay among the league’s top starting goaltenders for the year. Quick did have trouble in the opening period with rebounds, as is becoming too habitual to not turn against him at some point, but as the game wore on he settled things down.
Kopitar and Ryan Smyth, with an assist on the first goal, extended their point streaks to 5 games. Kopitar now sits with the elite company of Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who are also scoring at a 2 point-per-game clip, each with 10 points in the first 5 games.
Luckily for the Kings, they get a much needed day of rest before back to back games on Wednesday and Thursday. They will only be traveling down the turnpike to Manhattan to face the Rangers before making a much longer trip to Detroit for a game the following night.
The Kings are now 2-1 at home and 2-0 on the road. They also, at least momentarily, lead their division and are tied for 1st in the conference with Calgary.
All is well on this Columbus Day.