Waking up with the Kings: February 10

Los Angeles’ win on Monday wasn’t the most typical Kings-Blue Jackets game, not that it matters much to the visitors, who won 4-3 to salvage a five-game, 11-day trip with back-to-back road wins for first time since November 26 and December 4. There was still some bad blood carried over from Los Angeles-Columbus games of yore; it’s not exactly the Kings-Sharks rivalry, but games between these former intraconference rivals have had their share of nastiness (see: Richards-Dubinsky, Doughty-Dubisnky), a notion alluded to during the home team’s pre-game videoboard preview. Monday’s game started out like a track meet; there was ample space through the neutral zone and plenty of opportunities for player to bring the puck wide with speed into the attacking end. The first two goals were scored off high-speed rush chances that ended with some grease-covered deflections influenced by players driving towards the net, while the third goal – Tyler Toffoli’s go-ahead marker – was created by forcing a turnover and was aligned a bit closer to the heavy forecheck that the Kings managed to build up. When I see the Kings both dominating possession to the tune of a 62-46 shot attempt advantage, and out-hitting a team 39-34, it’s a pretty strong example that Los Angeles was able forecheck well and play the game it wanted to play for the full 60 minutes. They possessed the puck, they pressured well without the puck, and eventually the track meet evolved into the type of game the Kings are having to play to win road games with key defensemen out – one in which they’ll have to score three or four times.

Los Angeles Kings v Columbus Blue Jackets

Los Angeles’ fourth goal was a fitting development in a game it had controlled for the better part of the first two periods. Nursing a one-goal lead and expecting a strong Columbus push over the final period, the Kings strung together some of their best shifts of the game over the first five minutes, dominating zone time and notching an important insurance tally that ultimately served as the game-winner. Dustin Brown’s goal off Marian Gaborik’s rebound was the end result of a simple play and a symptom of what happens during heavy zone time discrepancy. The best defense is a good offense, or as is often the case with the Kings, possession dominance. Los Angeles registered the first eight shots of the third period, an important footnote in the first one-goal win since the 3-2 win in Vancouver on January 1. Also third period-related, but not too important in the bigger picture: How on earth does Columbus receive a reset instead of a too many men on the ice call when the puck was dropped on an offensive zone faceoff late in the game, and there was blatantly an extra skater on the ice? That’s some garbage officiating.

Jamie Sabau / National Hockey League

There was good resilience shown both by the team in last night’s game and at the tail end of the road trip. The Jackets score 100 seconds into the game? It took the Kings 32 seconds to answer. Scott Hartnell, in his 1,000th game, ties things up late in the second period? Jeff Carter, off a pinpoint feed from Brayden McNabb, scores on a redirection to reestablish the lead 1:18 later. It’s a microcosm of the latter stages of the trip, when a nightmare third period sequence in Florida dropped the Kings to 0-3 on the swing and sounded alarms throughout the Kingdom. Los Angeles responded by taking a 3-0 lead in the first period at Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay – a game in which they also registered a hugely important third period goal – before winning on Monday night. There’s never been any issue with the fight in this team – the challenges are personnel-related and the rise in scoring chances against – and on Monday night the team showed the intangibles we’re very well familiar with.

Los Angeles Kings v Columbus Blue Jackets

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