Tyler Toffoli’s overtime goal was rightfully the most talked about play of the Kings’ 2-1 overtime win over the Bruins Saturday night, but there was another memorable shift in a late-game situation that displayed both a possession and tactical advantage when several star players were on the ice, as well as an emotional registry from those attempting to win a game outright when a safe play would have been to settle for one point and try to grab a second in overtime.
The shift by Kopitar's line near the end of regulation was the best I've seen from the Kings in a long time. Never gave up the puck.
— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) October 29, 2017
It looked like this:
That was Alex Iafallo, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Derek Forbort and Drew Doughty setting up shop in the offensive zone and generating a number of quality looks off hustle and battles won against Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, Anders Bjork, Brandon Carlo and Zdeno Chara. There was only one actual shot on goal – Iafallo’s snapper from the slot that Tuukka Rask gloved to end the threat – but ample momentum and plenty of nervous groans as Los Angeles tiled the ice late in a push for two points in regulation.
I asked all three Kings forwards involved about their roles in the shift, which elapsed over a roughly 45-second span late in the third period, and learned that John Stevens had used the video clip of the shift during a team meeting Sunday at the Scottrade Center.
“That was just playing the game the right way,” Stevens said. “That was really good structure in what they were trying to do. They had really good movement. They were one step ahead, they knew each other were going, they used the D up top, and what we liked about that, it was a minute to go in the hockey game and we weren’t sitting back, waiting for a point. We were trying to win the hockey game, and we loved that in those guys. Kopi was awesome last night. I mean, overtime he got stuck out there on a long shift and had very little left in the tank and dug down and found a way to get back and just disrupt Marchand on the opportunity he had. He was tired, and a lot of guys would’ve said, ‘you know what? I’ve got nothing left here.’ He dug down deep in the pail and was able to make a difference there. It’s great to see.”
Anze Kopitar, on what he read from the late third period shift:
I think, first and foremost, we had guys in all three positions really that you want to have in the offensive zone. In saying that, you want to have one guy high so the D can go in and keep the pucks in and then two guys mixing around the net. It’s funny – when you have guys in position like that, the puck kind of follows you around, really. We had some really good looks. Alex had a couple really nice shots. But we’re trying to do that all the time. It’s not like that’s the last shift and that’s all of a sudden you want to do that. We want to do that all the time, and I think we’ve been so far doing a pretty job of that and we’ve just got to continue doing it.
Kopitar, on knowing when to shift and when to move from the perimeter to a scoring area:
Just reading the play. I mean, you know I don’t think there’s a position you just start off. I don’t think there’s a set position that you finish at. So, honestly, I don’t know how to explain this, but it’s just reading and reacting to it. [Reporter: Is that surprising that someone like Alex, who’s played 11 games in the NHL, kind of has has all that kind of chemistry with you?] But that’s what makes it a good line. He comes in and we click right away. You know, there’s not a lot of learning process – it’s not that. He goes in and he plays his game. He complements— or, I should say, we complement each other – me, Alex, and Brownie— really well. And we’re playing to our strengths, and that’s what makes chemistry on the line and that’s what makes the line successful.
Kopitar, on trying to win the game in regulation:
I mean, I don’t think you go in there just running around like an idiot, right? You still want to be responsible. But then, at the same time, if you’re in there, why not, you know? We’re going after it. I do think a lot of it is comfort in those situations and confidence. And winning will certainly do that. And, I mean, the way we’ve been playing this year- [Reporter: It feeds that.] Exactly. It feeds it and it almost to a certain degree encourages it. And that’s where you go in and you feel comfortable and you feel confident even though it’s what, a minute and a half left. [Reporter: It’s not thinking you make a mistake, you’re going to lose. You’re not thinking that way.] Exactly. It’s a not-losing mentality.
Dustin Brown, on what stood out to him about the late third period shift:
I think our spacing. Early on in the shift I think I got a rim. I’m trying to remember it now. I kind of got pinched off and chipped it low and Al was right there to kind of keep the play alive. And we just kind of did that three or four times where it’s like one guy kind of gets closed off and just moves the puck allowing for the play to just stay alive. And, as a result, we spent a minute or so in their zone and A.I. probably had three good looks. So, it was more the spacing and just keeping plays alive.
Brown, on the balance between the tactical, X’s and O’s approach to late-game situations, and the more emotional, we’re-going-to-go-out-and-score-on-this-team approach:
It’s probably a little bit of both. I mean, especially at the last minute of the game and you’re probably in a tied game, you’re not taking any huge risks. I think if you look at the clip we probably have a F3 pretty high throughout the whole time. Like I said, the spacing of the first two guys getting in on the forecheck or keeping plays alive. We had two guys in and around the puck, so it wasn’t like we dumped three guys in the corner to retrieve a puck like maybe it would be like when we had an empty net or when we were down by a goal. But it was just a momentum shift, really.
Alex Iafallo, on what he saw from the shift:
I feel like we were just using each other. Just trying to get the cycles down low and just working hard to get the puck. We’ve got to keep doing that and we had a lot of chances from doing that at the end there. Especially at a crucial time of the game, that’s what we need and we’re going to keep doing it.
Iafallo, on whether Boston’s checking and defensive play presented looks he hadn’t seen yet:
Yeah, I mean they’re obviously good defensive, they’re pretty solid back there. So, we just have got to keep our feet moving and using those cycle plays. Trying to get away from the D and finding that third guy high and getting that shot off quick. So, yeah, we’ve just got to keep doing that and get a couple goals from that.
Iafallo, on using his legs to leverage the defenders and gain some jump towards the net in overtime:
Yeah, just opportunity. I kind of saw a lane and just wanted to pick up the speed and obviously use it to my advantage and get to the net quick. Unfortunately, it popped over my stick there. But, yeah, just getting chances like that, I’ve just got to keep doing that.
-stick tap to Samson Lee for the video clip
-Lead photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI