The Kings withstood the continuation of one of the more difficult parts of their schedule – a home-and-home addendum to nine consecutive road games – and continued to remain above the cutoff amidst the glut of teams that are separated by very little in the Western Conference. Entering play Wednesday, there’s a 51-point team, a 50-point team, a 48-point team, and then nine teams that have collected between 39 and 46 points. Again, that was the established goal early in the season when the Kings dealt with injuries to key performers, and now, as the first signs of daylight begin to form on several returns, they will look to take advantage of a home-heavy remainder of the schedule, even if the team will play nine of 10 on the road after the upcoming seven-game home stand.
Make sure to include Tanner Pearson to the list of Kings enjoying a strong season. As noted yesterday, it’s a good sign that his shot rate has increased while his shooting percentage hasn’t been affected; after last night’s one goal on four shots, he’s now shooting 13.2%, the second highest rate amongst L.A. forwards and a touch above an impressively robust career rate of 12.8%. He hits the net with regularity and has shown an aptitude for both shooting off the rush and burying one-timers, the latter of which was the result of poor Kevin Labanc puck management as San Jose turned the puck over in the extra session to set up the two-on-one rush. But, yeah – while it may be the result of a periodic spike in production, it’s a good sign that his shot output and shooting percentage have both climbed.
There were plenty of commendable performances to go around, and it would be remiss to forego mentioning the two goaltenders, who were excellent in a game that was tied at one and featured a combined 60 shots through 60 minutes. Those may have been the Pacific Division’s goalies at this month’s All-Star Game. Peter Budaj didn’t face a ton of chances through the first 40 minutes but was outstanding in the third; the same superlatives apply to Martin Jones, who made key stops on Anze Kopitar and Tanner Pearson while shorthanded and Jordan Nolan while at even strength. Kopitar and Marian Gaborik probably generated their best chemistry together since Gaborik rejoined the lineup, especially over the first two periods. It was also interesting watching Derek Forbort, who was highly involved as part of his career-high 25:07 of ice time. There were a few mistakes Forbort made when handling the puck, but without the puck, when he was defending, he was hard to play against down low and was mostly effective along the boards.
As for Gaborik, that’s some tough luck on the disallowed goal. Rule 67.6 (and, similarly 78.5, clause i) states “a goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who bats or directs the puck with his hand into the net.” Intent does not matter at all. So even though Gaborik, who is being leveraged toward the net by a defender, notices a puck popping up in the air and makes the origins of a movement to attempt to play the puck with his stick, if the puck is directed into the net by his glove with any iota of force, it’s no goal. Really, that’s a lousy rule more than a lousy call by the situation room in Toronto. It takes what appears to be a goal off the scoreboard by the slightest movement of a glove in which the defender does not attempt to intentionally bat the puck into the net, but again, “intent” is irrelevant.