LA Kings forward Phillip Danault talks about the team’s struggles in the faceoff dot and the strong play from Cal Petersen.
The LA Kings likely would have preferred a better start to their four-game road trip. Tuesday marked Viktor Arvidsson‘s first game at Bridgestone Arena since being traded over the summer. But his former team came away with the victory as the Kings fell to the Nashville Predators 2-1.
Outside of a ten-minute stretch in the second period, Los Angeles was chasing the puck all night. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Kings accounted for a 43.7 CF%, essentially equating to how often they had the puck. And despite jumping out to a 1-0 lead 4:38 into the middle frame on Anze Kopitar‘s fifth goal of the season, the Kings generated just four high-danger chances for (HDCF).
“We definitely have work to do – we had some good things in the game, but I just think that we were a little too sloppy at times in our zone, and we gotta work together and be stronger in the corner and win more battles,” forward Phillip Danault said following the game. “I think it starts from the D zone altogether, not only the D men but the forwards – we gotta help and we gotta be better, too.”
Danault has gotten off to a strong start in a Kings uniform, lighting the lamp on Opening Night while winning 51 percent of his faceoffs, including 11-of-19 on Tuesday. And while it’s still early, the former Montreal Canadien logged a season-high 20:03 time-on-ice.
The Kings got off to a shaky start in the first period, but Cal Petersen stopped all 13 shots he faced, including a few-point blank saves. With under 20 seconds remaining in the second period, Predators’ forward Filip Forsberg drew a penalty shot after being fouled from behind on a breakaway. Petersen kicked aside Forsberg’s shot, keeping the Predators off the board and taking a shutout into the final intermission.
”Petey (Cal Petersen) was awesome for us,” Danault said. “He made some huge saves. When that happens, we got to find a way to win those games for him, and that’s a good learning lesson for us today. We gotta push and score more goals, for sure, but it will come. It’s just a matter of time. But yeah, it all starts defensively as a group.”
Ultimately, the Kings were snake-bitten as the Preds started the third period on a powerplay, with Matt Duchene scoring on a rebound just over a minute into the man advantage. And it significantly shifted the momentum back in Nashville’s favor, as the Predators would get another goal – what would later prove to be the game-winner – four minutes later.
And despite their best efforts to come back, the Kings could not consistently gain possession, winning just 40 percent of all draws on the night. Anze Kopitar went 6-for-20 in the faceoff dot, prompting head coach Todd McLellan to look elsewhere. Danault paced all Kings’ skaters with a 58 percent win rate, and Blake Lizotte was right behind him at 57 percent.
“We were struggling a little bit on the draws today,” Danault acknowledged. “I think that we came back stronger in the second [period], stronger in the third. And I think [Todd McLellan] trusts me; I think I was the best on draws tonight. That’s where Kopi (Anze Kopitar) and I help each other – we can win some draws both. When our nights isn’t going well, we can help each other.”
The Kings have struggled with puck possession after exploding for six goals on Opening Night in their last two games. They will have a chance to correct that on Friday in Dallas.