You know the Kings emerged with a powerful win not only when playing the final two periods sans Anze Kopitar, but when, in a road battle on the second night of a back-to-back set against the league’s top possession team in the regular season juggernaut St. Louis Blues (granted, Los Angeles ranked second in Corsi metrics), Darryl Sutter said of Jhonas Enroth, “I’m not sure how much work he had.” Fortunately, in a game in which the Kings lost their top pivot, they had more centers than usual in the lineup with Andy Andreoff and Trevor Lewis’ versatility and Jordan Weal’s presence, and through an all-hands-on-deck effort and a third period in which rumor has it that Jeff Carter, did, in fact, leave the ice, the Kings emerged from a difficult building with their most important road victory of the young season. The team quickly moves ahead from wins and losses, so there didn’t seem to be any profound focus to avoid the type of third period setback experienced the previous night in Chicago, and unlike the Blackhawks game, Los Angeles was able to bury an important insurance goal when Tanner Pearson received a Brayden McNabb pass and utilized his hard and accurate shot in beating Jake Allen, who was excellent, on the short side. In four consecutive games against top Central Division teams – three of which were waged on the road – the Kings went 3-1-0 against the Jets, Predators, Blackhawks and Blues.
The sky is blue, water is wet, and Drew Doughty is a phenomenal NHL defenseman. His imprint on his game was similar to his overtime impact in Saturday’s win over Nashville as he provided the embodiment of using strong defensive zone work to generate offense. While killing a penalty, he created a turnover by using a long reach to disrupt a perimeter Blues feed and subsequently drew a Colton Parayko holding call while setting up an odd-man rush in the opposite direction; during the ensuing four-on-four action he made a skill move around Troy Brouwer, whose leg sweep resulted in a tripping call that set up the four-on-three that led to Jeff Carter’s game-winning goal. Speaking of key defensive plays, after a Kings icing while it was still a one-goal game in the third period, Ken Hitchcock put out Steen-Lehtera-Tarasenko-Gunnarsson-Parayko against Gaborik-Andreoff-Lewis-Ehrhoff-McBain, and Lehtera won the draw. Six seconds after the faceoff win, Alexander Steen’s shot was blocked by Christian Ehrhoff, who issued a perfect saucered clearing attempt that trickled towards St. Louis’ blue line, allowed for an immediate line change, and did not result in an icing call. 44 seconds after the block, Tyler Toffoli found Brayden McNabb, who found Tanner Pearson, and his finish resulted in an exodus towards the exits.
Of course, all of this post-win analysis becomes shallow window dressing if word today at Kings HQ is that Anze Kopitar did, in fact, suffer an injury that would cause him to miss time after weathering unnecessary contact from Ryan Reaves with his face. Though early indications appeared to be (very) guardedly encouraging given Darryl Sutter’s post-game comments, there’s nothing solid towards Kopitar’s status at this point, and that’s obviously the most important story on today’s docket. More to come from El Segundo.