This team can dominate 57 minutes of game time, score a Power Play goal, kill 4 of 4 penalties, hold the opposition to 13 shots FOR THE WHOLE GAME and yet still barely squeak out a win. Bob Miller is fond of the saying “nervous time” and apparently, so are the Kings. Leading 2-0 in the 3rd period at the 17:40 mark, there was no doubt in this game. At 17:34, doubt took a seat on the Kings bench. Fresh off another failed Power Play by the Kings, that Johnson guy joined a 2 on 2 rush, stick-handled around Kopi to the side of the net and passed the puck through the crease where it hit Voynov’s skate and stopped. Nick Foligno outbattled Voynov and tapped it in to bring the Jackets within a goal. Scuderi was on the ice, too, picking up another minus to bring his season total to minus 7.
The next shift after the goal was given to the Richards’ line with Ellerby and Doughty; for Richards and Lewis this shift would last 1:20, more than twice as long as a usual shift under those circumstances. Half the shift was spent in the Columbus zone, then King was able to change and Penner came out, but defensive assignments against a rush precluded Richards and Lewis from getting off the ice. When Columbus got the puck in the Kings zone, it was outside possession only, and then the puck was cleared to center ice. #10 and #22 gutted out a very effective, extended shift.
Strangely, the next forward line was Stoll, Carter and Kopitar. Maybe Sutter was hedging his bet on a potential faceoff by having 3 centers out there, but to my recollection these three guys have never played together at the same time all season. What ensued was a final 45 seconds of scramble, all in the Kings zone, with no faceoffs, 3 failed clearing attempts and at least 3 quality chances for the visitors. If the Kings couldn’t clear it, at least they were able to block enough of the chances that there was only one real close call, on a shot from the low slot that ping-ponged wide.
Ice time for the defense has returned to balance. Doughty is down from 28 minutes or so to under 24, effectively the same as Voynov in both total time and specialty teams use. Muzzin took a regular shift and did Power Play with no penalty kill, Drewiske took a regular shift and did Penalty Kill with no Power Play.
Penner started the game on the Stoll line, but was inserted throughout the game into the Carter line with Williams. This started at the end of the first period, happened in the last half of the 2nd period and third period at times as well. Clifford then would be dropped to the Stoll line, and his response was to just go out there and score an unassisted goal.
With a center ice pinch and deft takeaway, Clifford created a 2 on 1 with Trevor Lewis. The Jackets D-man went to the ice to block the pass, Clifford shot from the left wing across the net, and the puck went in between goalie Bobrovsky’s pad and glove. Gotta love this kid; he’s starting to look like a Scott Hartnell type, maybe not quite the hands, but size, speed and a legitimate offensive threat.
Knight of the Realm has to go to Clifford, again. His solo play sparked the Kings, and for a long time it looked like a 1-0 game with few shots (22LAK-13CBJ) and far fewer chances. Richards had an effective game defensively, and even though he got a Power Play goal it was a carom off a defender on a mostly flubbed pass. Clifford played with Carter and looked good, Clifford played with Stoll and looked good, plus he manufactured a goal completely on his own.
Bernier was solid again, and managed to stay awake waiting between 13 shots, until the last minute scramble where things got a little loose. The Columbus goal did include a pass thru the crease and goalies are supposed to prevent those, but the angle was such that Bernier had to stay at the post and count on his defender to cover the man. No fault to Voynov either, really; he had inside position, tied up his guy’s stick, but a loose puck developed and just happened to be where Voynov couldn’t get it first.
Seems that Columbus wants to be like Nashville, and play knowing that since they won’t get a lot of shots, nobody will. With the Kings facing the Blackhawks next, the style of game should be very different. Speed, tempo, and grit, the Blackhawks are playing now like the Kings did last May and June. Let’s not forget we owe them a little something from opening night.