Three takeaways from LA Kings’ 4-1 win over Florida Panthers
The LA Kings will leave Florida with three out of a possible four points after a 4-1 victory over the Panthers on Thursday.
The LA Kings put forth a good effort in Tuesday’s opening game of this road trip, but came up short in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
They couldn’t dwell on that frustrating finish, though. They got a point, and Thursday presented an opportunity for them to leave Florida with three out of four points against two of the NHL’s best teams, something just about any Kings fan would have signed up for heading into this road trip. And that’s exactly what the Kings are doing after a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
FLA – Kierstad (1), Assists: Huberdeau (23), Reinhart (14)
LAK: Määttä (1), Assists: Grundström (3), Moore (4)
LAK: Kopitar (9), Assists: Durzi (5), Iafallo (9)
LAK: Brown (4), Assists: Roy (9)
LAK: Kaliyev (6), Assists: Lizotte (5)
Shots on goal:
Three things that stood out:
1. COVID impact
I don’t think this is the part any of us want to talk about, but it’s getting impossible to ignore, so let’s just get it out of the way here.
This isn’t something anyone hoped we would still be dealing with this year. Not nearly two years into this pandemic, not with almost the entire league getting vaccinated before the season. But COVID-19 is currently ravaging major sports leagues across North America, and the NHL hasn’t been spared.
All day, it seemed entirely possible that this game wouldn’t even be played tonight. It did, but the Panthers were severely shorthanded. Sam Bennett, Radko Gudas, Ryan Lomberg, Brandon Montour, and Carter Verhaeghe were placed in protocol on Wednesday. Then not even two hours before puck drop on Thursday, Aaron Ekblad and Frank Vatrano were added to the list.
Florida was also without injured captain Aleksander Barkov.
The Kings — for now — may not be dealing with the same amount of cases as the Panthers, but they also lost a very significant player to COVID protocol on Thursday in Drew Doughty. Andreas Athanasiou was also placed on injured reserve.
The Panthers, at full strength or at least relatively close to it, are a very good team. In that sense, the Kings were fortunate on Thursday. But it’s hard to feel great about the way they were fortunate.
2. This is Jonathan Quick’s crease again
This has been becoming clearer and clearer, and it was reinforced again on Thursday.
The stunning resurgence of Jonathan Quick this season continued with a 41-save performance in Sunrise. Through 17 starts this season, he now owns a .935 save percentage and 2.03 goals-against average.
Quicky QUICK⚡️⚡️⚡️@LAKings | #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/30d7xwIpJc
— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) December 17, 2021
Cal Petersen was given a hefty contract extension before the start of the season. This year was the first time since 2008-09 that Quick didn’t start LA’s season opener. His time was supposed to be up. He was only still on the team because LA couldn’t find a way to get rid of his contract.
As it turns out, not getting rid of Quick may have been the best decision the Kings made all offseason. Quick and Petersen had been rotating games for most of the season, but Thursday was Quick’s fourth consecutive start. Don’t be shocked if that streak extends to five in Raleigh on Saturday.
It’s clear which goaltender Todd McLellan has more faith in right now. Petersen’s struggles have something to do with that, but Quick has genuinely been great this season and deserves credit for it.
3. The vets break through
After a red-hot start to the season, not a lot of pucks have been going in for Anže Kopitar lately.
But he scored a big goal on Thursday, giving the LA Kings a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish early in the second period with a beautiful backhand shot over the glove of Sergei Bobrovsky.
What a pass from Durzi! #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/lAR7Yr28HZ
— Ryan Sikes (@ryan_sikes10) December 17, 2021
Backhand. Top shelf. @AnzeKopitar makes it look easy 🔥 pic.twitter.com/kPePAsAstf
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) December 17, 2021
That snapped a 13-game goal drought for the captain. It was just his third in the last 24 games after scoring six in the season’s first four games.
Of course, Kopitar does a lot of things well for the Kings, even when he isn’t scoring. But you know it had to feel good for him to finally see a shot go in. Especially after getting denied by Andrei Vasilevskiy on a breakaway in overtime on Tuesday.
It’s been a bit of a tough season offensively for Dustin Brown as well, but he also scored a huge goal for LA on Thursday. After pressuring MacKenzie Weegar into a turnover, Brown walked in all alone and beat Bobrovsky with a nice backhand move of his own to extend LA’s lead to 3-1.
Brown’s Goal 👀 pic.twitter.com/fODTWNm1li
— Ryan Sikes (@ryan_sikes10) December 17, 2021
That snapped a six-game goal drought for Brown and was just his second in the last 23 games.
The LA Kings will continue their road trip against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.