With last night’s overtime victory over Colorado, the Kings now have earned wins from five of their last six games and points from six of their last seven. The team picked up the two points in the opening test of a very tricky three-in-four set, which continues tonight in Las Vegas and concludes on Thursday against the NHL’s points leader, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last night’s victory saw signs of a vintage Kings victory – Anze Kopitar was buzzing all night and assisted on both of his team’s regulation goals. Drew Doughty played more than half the game (30:28) and scored a power-play goal, while Dustin Brown scored another goal in a big situation. Jonathan Quick had a solid 22-save night, providing timely saves when needed. And while it may not be the formula for sustainable, long-term success, the Kings felt after the game that they are finally getting back to being a team takes care of its own end, and does a fine job of doing so. Los Angeles has allowed 13 goals over its last six games, nearly a goal per game less than their season average. I think Drew Doughty summed things up pretty well after last night’s game –
“I think if you play well defensively, and your intentions are to do the right things, you’re going to get more wins than you’re not,” he said. “You can kind of not be great offensively, and get a win, but if you’re not going to be great defensively, you’re going to lose the game no matter what. We seem to know how to play good defense in here, and if we keep doing that we’ll get more wins.”
Looking at the blueline, Doughty was his usual self, finding the scoresheet and carrying the load on the blueline. Jake Muzzin collected the assist on Brown’s goal and tied for the team lead with four blocked shots, along with Derek Forbort, who logged more than 22 minutes. Dion Phaneuf was solid in his return to the lineup and then…there’s the series of emotions that can be used to describe Sean Walker’s evening. Walker appeared to open the scoring in the first period, taking a feed from Adrian Kempe and firing a wrist shot past Semyon Varlamov for what would have been his first career NHL goal, only to see it wiped out for goalie interference. After another period had passed by, Walker accomplished the first NHL goal feat for the second time, scoring on what he described as his “first wraparound goal, ever.” “It was definitely a roller coaster, pretty high and then pretty low and then luckily I got the other one, so it was good,” Walker added.
So what’s next? The Kings have elevated out of the NHL’s basement, moving from 31st, all the way to a tie for 28th. Progress! Los Angeles finished off the month of December at 7-5-2 and begins January against the only blemish from its last six games, the Golden Knights. Vegas skated to a 4-1 win at STAPLES Center just three days prior, though the Kings hold a 2-1 record in this season’s series. The Golden Knights have lost just once in their last 11 games and posted a 9-3-3 record in December. A big test in an all too familiar building awaits tonight’s at 6. We’ll hear from Willie Desjardins prior to the game and will share news from that here if there is any.