With a 5-0 victory over the Washington Capitals, the Dallas Stars moved past the Phoenix Coyotes in the playoff standings for the last wildcard spot (they’re tied in points but Dallas has the ROW tie breaker as well as a game in hand) after they dropped a 2-1 decision to Winnipeg in the shootout. For the Kings, playing the Coyotes on Wednesday night, winning in any fashion (regulation, OT, shootout) would enable LA to clinch a playoff spot for the fifth year in a row.
Rookie Tanner Pearson is making the most of his opportunity since being recalled following the Olympic break. He scored his third goal of the season off a gorgeous feed from Jeff Carter and beat Thomas Greiss on a backhanded one timer. Entering the zone along the left wing boards with speed and Toffoli, Carter found Pearson, a left handed shot, streaking down the right wing boards and made a fantastic pass across the ice. Pearson got on one knee and beat Greiss cleanly to open the scoring just a minute and twenty seconds into the game.
The Kings outshot the Coyotes 7-5 in the first and had some good looks in the dying minutes of the first period, but Greiss stood tall.
Less than a minute into the second period, Antoine Vermette took an offensive zone penalty for interference when he pushed Justin Williams down, who had skated in to support Doughty in a board battle with Coyotes captain Shane Doan. Most of the ensuing Kings power play looked like hot garbage, including giving up a shorthanded chance (weak shot from behind the goal line that Jonathan Quick easily stopped) and icing the puck but with just over 30 seconds left in the power play, Kopitar gained the zone and LA was able to set up. Doughty scored on a snap shot (instead of his patented wave-the-stick-around-in-the-air-like-a-giant-signal-slapshot) off a nice feed from the red hot Alec Martinez to make it 2-0.
LA peppered Greiss with an additional 14 shots on goal that period, but he continued to deny each shooter. He even robbed Jeff Carter of a sure goal on a breakaway less than three seconds before the period ended, prompting a disbelieving smile and a compliment when the two were skating towards their respective benches.
Down by only two, Dave Tippett’s team came out strong hoping to cut the lead by at least one. The first three minutes were the busiest Jonathan Quick had been all night as Coyotes buzzed around the side of the net, though most of the shots were blocked or missed. Calmly, Kings held their ground (and their lead) as they patiently outworked the fatigued desert dogs, putting on a near clinic defensively. Midway through the final frame, Jeff Carter finally managed to beat Greiss on a 2-on-1 as the puck just sneaked between his arm and his body. With frustration mounting, Shane Doan carelessly trips up Doughty, putting his team down a man. It only took seven seconds before Kopitar scored off an incredible pass from Gaborik. It was a perfectly placed shot that Greiss had absolutely no chance on. Carter won the initial faceoff cleanly back to Voynov, who passed to Martinez, who passed to Gaborik, who drew two defenders to him, passed the puck through Zybenek Michalek’s legs to Kopi, who sniped it in for his 25th goal of the season.
The two quick goals in succession took the wind of Phoenix’s sails as they managed to get only one more shot on goal while LA kept pressing for even more. In spite of the Kings scoring four times, the game could’ve really gotten out of hand had Thomas Greiss not been as excellent as he was. While he did give up a weak goal 7-hole, he was outstanding throughout the rest of the game in which he received very little help from his teammates. Through nearly 50 minutes, he gave his team every chance to remain in the game. And even as the Kings kept pushing, he remained steadfast in net.
At the other end of the ice, Jonathan Quick was perfect, stopping all 17 of the Coyotes’ shots, posting his 31st career shutout and his sixth of the season, moving to within one of all-time great Rogie Vachon’s franchise record of 32 shutouts. The shutout also marks a franchise record of 12 shutouts in one season (Quick 6, Jones 3, Scrivens 3).
It was complete domination from start to finish after extremely sloppy play saw them lose to 3-2 to Minnesota on Monday night. If this was a statement game, the message was received loud and clear: they’re a good team and they intend to compete for the Stanley Cup again; the loss to Minnesota was just an anomaly.
Wednesday night’s victory also marked the 1500th victory in LA franchise history. Per Jon Rosen, LA Kings Insider, “The Los Angeles Kings won their inaugural game, a 4-2 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Long Beach Arena on October 14, 1967. Brian Kilrea scored the franchise’s very first goal to get Los Angeles on the board, one of four unanswered Kings goals scored in the win. 46 and a half years later, the Kings celebrated a 4-0 shutout of the Phoenix Coyotes, the 1,500th win in franchise history.”
With the win, Los Angeles clinched a playoff spot for the fifth year in a row. While this may not be impressive to fans of an organization like the Red Wings, but the Kings’ organization has largely, historically been terrible.
The Kings have now qualified for the playoffs 5 straight seasons. The last time the Kings made the playoffs 5 straight seasons was 1987-93
— LAKingsPR (@LAKingsPR) April 3, 2014
But if you think any of the players are impressed, well, they’re not. Post game, Dustin Brown told reporters, “There is nothing to celebrate about making the playoffs. Like I said, that’s not a goal. It’s an expectation.”
Darryl Sutter seemed even less interested in talking about a playoff berth, telling reporters “We’ll see” when asked if anything would change now that they’ve clinched.
There is a 95% chance that the LA Kings will face the San Jose Sharks in the first round since Anaheim is up three points on San Jose.