So, let’s just get it out of the way. Controversy! It’s difficult to gauge whether or not the game-winner should have counted, and really, it rests on judgment from both the on-ice officials and in Toronto. Jonathan Quick was already sliding backwards towards the net, though Brayden Schenn certainly applied force to enhance his momentum. There was absolutely contact on the play. Would the puck have otherwise crossed the line if Schenn didn’t apply the contact? It’s impossible to tell. Keep in mind that NHL Rule 69.6 deems “In the event that the puck is under a player in or around the crease area (deliberately or otherwise), a goal cannot be scored by pushing this player together with the puck into the goal.” Was Quick pushed together with the puck into the goal? As noted, it comes down to judgment, which didn’t favor the Kings’ last night. And so the team will soldier on. Park and ride.
As the players noted after the game, they put themselves in the position they were in by having to play catch-up for most of the night. They allowed an early goal, a goal with under a minute left in a period for the second consecutive game, and placed the onus on Quick to once again play an outstanding opening 20 minutes (as part of an outstanding 62:36) to keep the game within striking distance. By the time the Flyers found the back of the net 5:24 in, they had already taken nine shots and the Kings were scrambling a bit in their own zone. They were also opportunistic; Los Angeles’ outstanding penalty killing contributed with two enormous kills while trailing 1-0 in the first period, and shortly after Dwight King and Jeff Carter set an excellent tone by working exclusively in the offensive zone on the second kill, Tyler Toffoli pounced on a bouncing pass back to the point and used two-thirds of the length of the ice to settle a puck down before using quick hands in the slot to stride to his right and beat Ray Emery up high with a quick snapshot for his second shorthanded goal in nine games. Jarret Stoll spoke before the game about wanting to keep the Flyers’ power play off the ice; the Kings allowed only one shot during two penalty killing situations and scored a shorthanded goal. The team’s efforts to remain in this game and eventually develop their legs were admirable, especially so given the challenging road environment and the shortened bench.
It was almost like watching an ECHL game in that the Kings more or less utilized three lines due to only 17 skaters being available. While the personnel complications resulted in heavy ice times for forwards Kyle Clifford (career-high 16:18), Justin Williams (20:34), Jarret Stoll (20:40), Dwight King (21:26) and Jeff Carter (21:25), Andy Andreoff (4:04) and Jordan Nolan (6:46) didn’t see much of the ice.
Speaking of Clifford, last night’s game was among the best regular season games of his career. Along with Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams, the trio established the best zone time out of any forward group and was dominant at even strength. Williams’ in-game even strength Corsi-for was 70.7%, Clifford was at 65.1% and Stoll, who started the highest percentage of shifts in the defensive zone, was 52.8%. The trio was a part of the reason for the Kings finding their footing and pushing the run of play towards the attacking end as the game progressed.