The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins came to LA on a hot streak on the road but the Kings played an inspired game and won 5-2 at the Staples Center. The Kings scored 4 goals in the 3rd period to put the game away. I ran into ex- King and current commentator Jimmy Fox before the game and he told me this game would tell a lot about the team and which direction it was headed for. Ex Penguin Rob Scuderi played well and helped keep Pittsburgh at bay along with Drew Doughty, Davis Drewiske, Jack Johnson and Sean O’Donnell on defense.
Captain Sidney Crosby was quiet and held scoreless while the visitors played without their second best player Evgeni Malkin who is out 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury. Besides Malkin, the Penguins were without injured players Sergei Gonchar, Max Talbot and Tyler Kennedy but have been playing great hockey nonetheless. Pittsburgh got goals from Jordon Staal and ex-Duck Chris Kunitz to take a 2-1 lead as they entered the last period.
The first 2 periods were dominated by both goaltenders (Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Quick). I asked Quick about the team and how they played so well the last period. He replied that the team is gelling and playing together while playing with a lot of inspiration and emotion. These are true signs of a team on the rise.
Kings assistant captain and the top NHL scorer Anze Kopitar scored 2 more goals including the tying one in the 3rd period. The top line of Kopitar, Justin Williams and key acquisition Ryan Smith totaled 5 points for the game. Jarret Stoll put the Kings in front with his 4th goal of the year and the onslaught continued as Michal Handzus and Dustin Brown followed up with goals to put the game away. Coach Terry Murray said after the game that he thinks and that his #1 line can become an elite top line in this league. He also said every line was on board and played very well in the 3rd period especially against this great team. He was very impressed with Quick’s play in goal, who made some key saves.
I asked Murray if there was any special strategy vs. Crosby and he said the team just had more awareness including all forwards dropping back on defense and everyone covering their men. He also mentioned he sees Kopitar gaining a lot of confidence and taking his game to the next level this season. The 3 stars of the game were Kopitar #1, Stoll #2 and Brown #3.
More info, schedule and tickets at www.kings.nhl.com