As the Los Angeles Kings skated into Joe Louis arena on Sun, Feb 10, there were a lot of questions. The hometown Detroit Red Wings had won two games in a row, and seemed to be finally adjusting to a blueline which is sans Nick Lidstrom for the first time in 20 seasons. The Wings were also playing their second game in less than 24 hours, so would fatigue be a factor ? The Kings on the other hand, have been all over the map. Starting off 3-4-2, and having lost 3 of their last 4. There has been a lot of lineshuffling (on both offense and defense) recently by head coach Darryl Sutter, as he looks for the right combination to jump start the team. With not one forward line nor defense pairing from opening day still intact, had he finally found the formula ?
First period: The Kings came out with a lot of energy. Kyle Clifford generated a good scoring chance early, but was denied by Wings' goalie Jimmy Howard. A few minutes later, while on a power play, the Kings were almost victimized by the short-handed Wings. Pavel Datsyuk crossed the blueline with speed, jumped around defenseman Slava Voynov, and headed straight for the net, but he never saw the freight train coming. Drew Doughty, who was hustling to get back into the play, caught up to Datsyuk, and just as the latter was in scoring position, Doughty leveled the Russian star, knocking off his helmet and eliminating the glorious scoring opportunity. Datsyuk however, was not deterred. A short time later,with his Wings on the Power play, he controlled the puck in the neutral zone he used Zetterberg near the boards, to freeze Slava Voynov just long enough to allow himself to get inside position on his Russian countryman. Voynov could not get into strong enough position to stop Datzyuk from lifting a forehand shot over the glove of Jonathan Quick, to put Detroit up 1-0 at 5:44. The score would remain until late in the period when the Kings were in the midst of a line change, and as a result, Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi were not able to maintain gap control. Zetterberg found Damien Brunner to make the score 2-0 at 17:26. Less than 2 mins later, Anze Kopitar made a great individual effort, as he steamed down the right wing boards in the Detroit zone. He cut to the net, beat Dan Cleary around the outside, and despite pressure from Jonathan Ericsson, threaded a pass to Rob Scuderi. Scuds put a heavy shot on net and Kopitar, who was in perfect position, scored on the rebound to cut the score to 2-1 at 19:19.
Shots on goal in First period: Kings 15, Detroit 11
Second period: This was a great period for the Kings. There were way too many scoring chances to even begin to write it up. In no particular order, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Dwight King, Anze Kopitar, Kyle Clifford, and Jeff Carter all had glorious chances (some had multiple chances) to light the lamp. Jimmy Howard was absolutely superhuman in net. The Kings were amazingly kept off the scoreboard, despite outshooting Detroit by a ridiculously wide margin. If Howard winds up being one of the NHL's Three Stars of the week, this second period performance will definitely have been one of the deciding factors. There was no scoring in the period - score remained 2-1 Red Wings.
Shots on goal in Second period: Kings 23, Detroit 9
Third period: Detroit came out playing much better than they had in the first two periods. They jammed up the neutral zone, and took away much of the flow L.A. had enjoyed in the first two periods. Then came one of the most exciting last minute sequences this season. Still trailing 2-1 with just over a minute to play, the Kings pulled the goalie in favor of an extra attacker. The Kings played with maximum effort, and managed to hold the puck in the Detroit zone. As Kyle Clifford corralled the puck at the blue line, Jeff Carter occupied space in front of Jimmy Howard. Clifford let the shot fly, Howard made the save but Carter's positioning tied up defenders, and allowed Alec Martinez to skate through and pound in the juicy rebound at 19:07. The game appeared headed into OT, as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Play was stopped in the Kings' zone with about 10 secs to play. Jeff Carter did win the draw to the left side of Jonathan Quick, but Dan Cleary went hard on the forecheck, and forced the Kings to pass the puck up the nearside boards. It went right to Jonathan Ericsson at the point, and the Swede ripped a slapshot which somehow made it's way through the pads of Quick, and made an agonizingly slow trickle toward the goal line. Game winning goal for Ericsson at 19:55.
Shots on goal in Third period: Detroit 11, Kings 9
Though the Kings did not get the result they wanted, their effort in the game was undeniable. As long as the team puts forth this type of effort, things will eventually begin to turn around. The key is to not let this heartbreaking loss get to them. They were only 5 secs away from at least gaining one point in the standings.
Dustin Brown and Justin Williams led the team in shots on goal with 7 apiece.
Final score: Detroit 3, Kings 2
Final shots on goal: Kings 47, Detroit 31
Power play: Detroit 1-4, Kings 0-3
3 stars of the game:
#1) Jimmy Howard (Detroit)
#2) Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit)
#3) Alec Martinez (Kings)
Kings line combinations:
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