Photo Credit: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports
The big story in this series so far has been John Gibson, who has played well in his playoff debut. There’s been so much talk about him, the LA Kings Twitter account had a little fun prior to the game.
John Gibson arriving for Game 6 pic.twitter.com/pm4hU91qBc
— LA Kings (@LAKings) May 15, 2014
But alas, the Anaheim Ducks’ young rookie proved fallible as the goal that held up as the game winner was very stoppable. The puck just barely squeaked between Gibson’s pads and into the back of the net.
Pretty back and forth action, but the Kings held an edge with the ice slightly tilted towards Anaheim’s end. Jake Muzzin made up for his poor performance in Game 5 by opening the scoring in Game 6. He tapped the puck into the empty net after a playoff points leader Anze Kopitar set him up with a slick, no-look pass. Gibson came out to play the puck and his pass intended for Ryan Getzlaf went directly to Marian Gaborik. Fortunately for Gibson, the puck bounced over Gaborik’s stick and the error didn’t wind up a goal against. Both teams traded penalties but neither was able to capitalize on the man advantage. The score remained 1-0 going into the first intermission.
The Kings were undisciplined to start the period, taking two penalties close together but were fortunate Anaheim didn’t score. With just over six minutes left in the second period, Justin Williams found a streaking Trevor Lewis at the blue line. Ducks defensemen Bryan Allen and Hampus Lindholm afforded him copious amounts of time and space and he wristed a shot on net. The puck just managed to sneak under Gibson and held up as the eventual game winning goal. It was a soft goal that Gibson would probably like back, but sometimes you’re rewarded for hard work. Lewis has arguably been one of the best, most consistent forwards over the past two games. He had a lot of hustle and made some great plays (if only for his teammates to completely forget how to play hockey entirely in Game 5).
Anaheim responded well to being down two goals. On the next shift, Alec Martinez was pressured into turning the puck over in front of his own net. Jonathan Quick just barely got a piece of a Saku Koivu‘s shot and fortunately for him, the post got the other piece of the shot. Matt Greene bailed his goaltender out by clearing the puck out of the crease. A minute later, rookie Tanner Pearson gave the puck away in the neutral zone. Kyle Palmieri got a step on Jeff Schultz and beat Quick on a wraparound attempt, who was a tad slow to cover the post.
LA had a couple more glorious chances on a late power play but just couldn’t finish.
By far the closest period to date in the series. Both teams had chances but found little room to maneuver on the ice. Anaheim had a strong push in the final 90 seconds but couldn’t get anything past Quick.
Keys to Victory
The Kings received contributions from several guys outside the top players. Jake Muzzin and Trevor Lewis both scored goals while Matt Greene had a very good game with some timely blocks and made life very difficult for Anaheim’s forwards.
Greene decks Perreault into last week. 2 minutes? Well worth it.
— LA Kings (@LAKings) May 15, 2014
He did end up with a penalty, but it was such a good hit, it was definitely worth the minor infraction. Kyle Clifford also had an outstanding game after being scratched in Game 5. He hit hard, was good on the forecheck and used his speed to penetrate through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone.
The real key to the win was LA playing its game: Low scoring, hard hitting, good defense, solid possession and excellent goaltending.
Despite leading for about 80% of the game the Kings still dominated possession, they out-attempted the Ducks 50-35 at evens.
— Robert P. (@RobertJFTC) May 15, 2014
As the Fenwick (all shot attempts except for blocked shots) chart shows, the Kings were dominating possession from early on the in the game. The longer you play keep away with the puck, the less time and fewer opportunities your opponent will have to score. LA very much embraced that mentality and came out the gate firing everything at Gibson. On Wednesday night, their efforts were rewarded with two goals.
When Anaheim did have the puck, LA was very good at blocking shots, redirecting them and getting sticks into lanes. They collapsed well in front of Quick, who had a very good night as he was able to track pucks through traffic and elevate his game from where it was in the team’s past three losses. The Kings will need to take what they did in this game and repeat it if they hope to win the series.
The first ever Freeway Faceoff is all tied up at three games each and is going to a Game 7. The Ducks have home ice and will look to take advantage of last change up while the Kings will look to get back to their winning ways on the road.
The current corps of the Ducks does not have much experience with Game 7’s. Their series versus the Detroit Red Wings last year ended in heartbreak as they lost at home. The Kings, however, have quite a few players who are perfect in Game 7, including Justin Williams (5-0; 5 goals scored and 5 assists), Marian Gaborik and Mike Richards. The only player in the Kings’ current lineup that did not experience Game 7 in San Jose was Jeff Schultz, but he was traveling with the team at the time.
The final game in the Freeway Faceoff series will take place on Friday, May 16th, 2014 at 6PM PT/9 PM ET. But the winner won’t have it easy.
If the Kings win Game 7, their reward is a 4-hour flight and a game 39 hours later. You’re the best, Gary.
— Rich Hammond (@Rich_Hammond) May 15, 2014
The series victor will immediately hop on a plane to face the defending champs Chicago Blackhawks in a matinee game on Sunday, May 18th, 2014 at 3 PM ET/12 PM PT.