When the final story of the 2010-11 Los Angeles Kings hockey season is written sometime next spring (or summer), one of the games that will likely stand out was their 1-0 triumph over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.
The ‘marketeers’ in the league offices want to be able to sell the game to new fans by showcasing goal scoring excitement and gentlemanly play. But this game was a physical embodiment of what the game is, for better and for worse, at the core of its essence.
It was a game filled with hard hits that danced right up against the line and tried to permanently blur it. It saw some players taking some liberties with their opponents, and it saw game officials letting things quickly spiral out of control due to a lack of established control from the start.
And through it all, Jonathan Quick was outstanding by stopping all 24 shots he saw to record his first shutout of the season and ninth of his career. Quick is now 8-1-0 this season with a save percentage of .942 and a GAA of 1.64.
Justin Williams took a pass from Ryan Smyth early in the third period off a forechecking turnover and beat Mike Smith with a move that could only be duplicated by someone holding a joystick and pressing the R1 button. Williams cut from left side on the backhand and then spun himself around onto his forehand to beat Smith for a spectacular goal in a game that lacked magnificence.
The goal was the needle in a haystack of rugged body-checking and bone-crushing hits, some of which went over the line bordering on the intent to injure. And some, like Steve Downie’s chicken-hearted attempt to plaster Drew Doughty into the boards by skating full speed and leaping towards the Kings defenseman, actually stepped over the line into attempts to injure which should be met by a suspension from the league.
Downie missed, getting nothing but glass for his trouble, and when he attempted to further engage Doughty into stooping to his level, Willie Mitchell came to the rescue. Mitchell proceeded to stomp a mud hole in Downie and then attempted to walk it dry before the officials saved him.
It was a game full of old-fashioned on-ice brutality that didn’t cross over into old school Broad Street Bully blood and guts brawling, but teetered on the brink of it all night long.
“There were a few hits, a few confrontations; a little old-time hockey there with all those scrums that were going on,” head coach Terry Murray reflected. “It was a highly competitive game out there tonight.”
The victory was the first by the Kings at Staples Center against Tampa Bay in franchise history, and just the second ever home victory against the Lightning. The game also marked just the second time all season that the leading point scorer in the NHL, Steve Stamkos, was held scoreless.
The Kings also killed off all three power play chances for Tampa Bay tonight, extending their streak of consecutive penalties killed off to 18 straight at home this season. Overall, the Kings have now killed off 47 out of 51 chances this season.
“That was a playoff game and nobody was willing to give an inch,” Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher stated, “…there wasn’t much out there (in terms of easy chances to score) for either team.”
Only three goaltenders in the league will enter play on Friday with a better save percentage this season than Quick, and none of them have played as many games as the Kings netminder.
“Quick was amazing back there,” forward Anze Kopitar commented. “He had a huge game for us and that certainly helps.”
“Not bad when you get a shutout,” Murray mused about his goalie. “He had a lot of quality work here tonight and responded.”
Two former Kings saw action for the Lightning on this night. Teddy Purcell played 10:57 on 14 shifts and registered one shot on goal. Randy Jones played 15:45 n 25 shifts and was on the ice when Mathieu Roy turned the puck over leading to Smyth’s backhanded pass to Williams for the lone goal. Jones also registered one shot on goal.
The Kings will have an 11:30 practice on Friday in preparation for Saturday’s contest against the Nashville Predators. Game time is at 7PM at Staples Center.
Jon Moncrief is beginning his third season covering the Kings for foamcage.com and you can follow his thoughts on the Kings by clicking this link to follow him on Twitter. In addition to his Examiner duties covering the Kings and the Dodgers, Jon also is a featured contributor for Bowl Gamer, and is the co-host of the weekly web-TV show INSIDE SPORTS.