December is a fun month.
With it comes cheer, good will towards men, ancient birthdays and paid vacation time. The Los Angeles Kings, who have generally melted in the final month of year like so many fallen stockings in the fireplace, kicked off their yule-icious tidings with an early present for the fans; a regulation win over the Donald Ducks at the Honda Pond.
In a game replete with intesity, hits, up and down action, sophomoric commentating and 7 goals, Brad Richardson of all people led the way for the Kings. Richardson scored his first two points of the season, including the game winning goal in the dying minutes of the third period.
Scott Parse kicked off the festivities just over 5 minutes into the game when he took a pass from Wayne Simmonds and got behind the Ducks defense (I use the term ‘defense’ loosely) and snapped a shot over the blocker of Jonas Hiller to give the Kings a 1-0 lead. It took another 5 minutes for the Kings to take a 2 goal lead off a deflection goal by Justin Williams, his 6th of the season. Williams’ goal came on the powerplay and snapped two streaks, one for each team. Coming into the game, the Kings had gone 4 games without a powerplay goal, while the Ducks had gone 4 games without giving one up.
Somehow the 1st period ended 2-1, but I’m not sure who scored for the Ducks. At the 14:41 mark, my screen was overtaken by fairy dust. 30 seconds later there was a face-off at center ice and the Kings lead was apparently cut in half. Weird.
The second period saw the Kings absolutely dominate the Ducks in nearly every aspect of the game. 6:40 in, Randy Jones fired a puck on net after a pass from Brad Richardson and beat Hiller cleanly to give the Kings their second 2-goal lead of the evening. That lead lasted until the end of the period, when Wayne Simmonds got the little brother who doesn’t know any better treatment by the refs when he was slapped with a roughing call for retaliating against a late hit by Corey Perry. The Kings, who were already down a man with Richardson off for high sticking, killed off the 15 second two man advantage that followed. However as Richardson took his first stride out of the box, Ryan Whitney blasted a shot that deflected off a King defender and past Jonathan Quick to cut the Kings lead down to Duck size. That is to say, small and petty.
The third period started off as one would expect. The Kings backed off and sent in only one forechecker, while the Ducks tried to build momentum. They got that momentum on a wing and a prayer 5:29 into the frame when rookie Matt Beleskey fired an innocent shot at Quick from the blue line. The puck bounced violently off Quick’s chest and landed at Matt Greene’s feet. Todd Marchant took a swipe at the loose puck and put it past Quick to tie the game.
From then on, the pace of the game became furious. Back and forth the teams flew up and down the ice. Big shots, bigger saves, thick posts.
After Richardson broke through with his first goal as a King (in his 58th game), Jack Johnson took a cross-checking penalty for making Beleskey look like a women with a broken heal. The Ducks pulled their goaltender and fired everything they could muster at a scrambling Jonathan Quick who held on for the win.
This game taught me two things about the Kings. Wayne Simmonds is a world-beater, and Jack Johnson is stronger than everyone. Simmonds was all over the ice, hounding every poor Duck soul that got in his way, while Johnson cut more Ducks down to size than a chef in Peking.
I also learned that Evgeny Artyukin is a more unruly liability than Raitis Ivanans. Artyukin took three penalties throughout the game, all in the offensive zone, and all pretty lame. Since last year Kings’ fans have been clamoring to see the evil Evgeny punished for his knee on knee collision with Drew Doughty. Tonight, Artyukin got his comeupance, and no King player had to touch him for revenge to be taken, his first penalty leading to Williams’ powerplay goal.
There is, however, one disturbing thing that emerges from this game; the Kings still struggle to play with a lead. While the win was very encouraging, there is little excuse for this being a one goal game. Having outshot the Ducks 42-30 and outplayed them for all but 6 or 7 minutes of the contest, the final two minutes should not have been as nerve-racking as they were.
The other unfortunate note to take from this game is that Brandon Segal left the first period with a lower-body injury. The obligatory guessing game will come tomorrow, but most likely Segal roundhouse kicked too many villians during his pregame ritual.
To swing back to the positive, while the Kings have not fully grasped how to play with a lead, Terry Murray has finally gotten a clue as to how to help - Ivanans only played 16 second in the third period.
So rejoice Kings’ fans. Your team has won yet another game without defacto leader Ryan Smyth. The defense has held on without Rob “The Piece” Scuderi. Jonathan Quick IS a number one goaltender.
And in the spirit of defeathering birds that annoy us, you must excuse me while I now throw the Sun Conure that hasn’t stopped screaching since I sat down to write this article against the nearest wall.
Categories: L.A. Kings News