Xs and Os are one thing but this game was all about the “outs”. Out skating, out working, out shooting, out hitting and, as it was destined to be, out scoring the Penguins.
Anze Kopitar started the scoring on the Kings’ first shot of the game, 27 seconds into the period. He showed his speed and size and blasted through the Penguins defense. He finished the play with a beautiful outside / inside move that left Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury watching and wanting. The Penguins came back with a quick goal of their own. Jordan Staal, Jarret Stoll, no Jordan Staal (love you Bob Miller!) scored on a long point shot that Quick either did not see or misplayed. The first period ended 1-1. Sidney Crosby had no shots on net and managed a whole lot of nothing as the Kings first line was matched against the Penguins first line throughout the period and the former showed more than its merit.
The second started with each team trying to obtain and keep momentum. Scott Parse’s hustle and no quit skating and pursuit of the puck caused the Penguins to take one penalty. More followed. Though the Kings could not capitalize on the ensuing power plays, our boys took the game to the Penguins and but for a brief lull, held that momentum. The only problem was that the effort was not showing up, at this time, on the scoring sheet. Jonathan Quick also made some big saves until a high (but not high enough) deflection by Kris Kunitz found the net and put the Penguins up 2-1. In fairness to Quick, the replay showed that the puck did change significant direction on the deflection and, given the fact that former Duck Kris Kunitz got the deflection meant the puck had quite a bit of ugly on it while headed to the net. As a tangent, Kunitz gets the honor of being just as ugly in a Penguins uniform as he was in a Ducks uniform, no small feat.
Near the end of the second, an odd sequence occurred. A high sticking penalty, one deserved, was called on Kings forward Justin Williams. The referee put his hand up but did not appear to blow the whistle and if he did, it wasn’t very audible as even Jim Fox commented later that he didn’t hear one. Michal Handzus broke to the Penguins’ net and shot the puck, obviously not knowing about the penalty against the Kings. The goal was scored, immediately waved off due to the penalty and Handzus was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. What? Without a whistle, how is Handzus supposed to know on whom the penalty was called? The call qualified, in layman terms, as bullshit but Kunitz’ roughing penalty cancelled it out.
While the Penguins’ inability to score on the ensuing powerplay was important, what was more important was a big save by Jonathan Quick on Bill Guerin, who looked baffled that the puck did not go in. That changed the ever important momentum of the game again. The Kings, who were already playing a solid game, suddenly skated harder than I had seen them and beat the Penguins in the final minute of the period to every loose puck. At the sound of the buzzer that ended the second session, one had to wonder if that momentum would carry over…
…carry over it did.
The Kings weren’t skating, they were flying. Chance after chance. A shot by Kopitar that kissed and caressed the post at the mid 16 minute mark. No let up. No stop. The Kings skated harder at the 15 minute mark than they did at the 16 minute mark and controlled the play better at 14 than at 13. It was time. We could feel it. Staples Center was about to explode. From the voice of Bob Miller…
“Rebound, Kopitar, scooooores on the wrap around…”
“The puck is taken by Brown, Brown right side, pass, shot scooooores! Jarret Stoll!”
“Look at Simmonds fight for it there, he gives it to Frolov, Frolov in front, his pass, scooooore!! Simmonds!! And the Kings score again!”
“Kopitar, sends it over in front to Stoll, to Brown, he scoooores!!!”