Though Jake Muzzin scored the game-tying goal and Robyn Regehr dramatically ended the game in overtime, it was Jonathan Quick that carried the Los Angeles Kings to a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the team’s final game before the Olympic break. After allowing an ugly early power play goal to Jack Johnson, an outstanding Quick was perfect the rest of the way and denied Columbus on a collection of Grade-A and Grade-B opportunities, the glut of which came during a lopsided first period that may represented among the poorest 20 minutes of hockey that the team played all season. Out-shot 10-2 and taking two too many men on the ice penalties – one of which ended a late power play – to be able to look up at the scoreboard while retreating to the dressing room and see that only one goal separated the two teams was a development that played in the Kings’ favor. Quick stopped all 23 shots after Johnson’s goal as the Kings put together a sturdier effort over the final 43 minutes over one of the Eastern Conference’s hottest teams.
About those starts. What has crept into Los Angeles’ game early after such suffocating opens earlier in the season? When the team won 5-2 in Ottawa on December 14, it marked the 18th consecutive game in which they did not surrender a first period goal. Over this recent four-game home stand, the Kings allowed goals within the first 1:40 in three separate games and took minor penalties within the first three minutes of three of the games as well. Over the first 33 games of the season, Los Angeles allowed 12 first period goals. Over the 27 games since, the Kings have allowed 24 first period goals.
For a team that has a high skill level but isn’t generally associated with being among the fastest teams in the National Hockey League, the Kings certainly appear to be comfortable in four-on-four opportunities. L.A. improved to 4-2 in overtime this season, and in many of the games that were decided in overtime or eventually headed to a shootout, the Kings were the dominant possession team in the extra five minutes. Such was the case on Thursday night as Los Angeles took two shots in overtime and scored on one of them. The Kings have now outshot their opponents 36-20 in overtimes this season and have been the far superior team in late four-on-four play. Really, all four-on-four play has benefited the Kings, who scored twice in such situations against Columbus and have now outscored their opponents 7-2 in four-on-four hockey in 2013-14. This quick Blue Jackets team that features a mobile defense, interestingly, has not benefited from the open ice, having been outscored 8-3 in four-on-four play.
There are likely to be roster moves involving the Kings and Monarchs today, so stay tuned to LA Kings Insider (and LAKI Twitter) for updates, though bear with any delays in reporting while I travel to Manchester. The changeover to Manchester Monarchs Insider should take place later in the afternoon. There’s a lot of content to come on this Friday.