Through the first 49 minutes or so, the game was really close and separated by only a goal. Nick Foligno‘s unfortunate run-in with a linesman kind of sucked the life out of the Columbus Blue Jackets who were obviously (and rightly) more concerned with the health of their teammate than the state of the game.
The first period was a little chippy with both the Kings and Jackets hitting everything in sight. Corey Tropp skated nearly the width of the rink to lay a hit on Justin Williams who was in a vulnerable position. Tropp wasn’t penalized on the play and Matt Greene took exception to the hit, earning himself 2, 5 and 10 minutes for instigating a fight.
A little later, the Jackets got on the board first with a power play goal while Drew Doughty sat in the box for interference. LA had a couple of chances to clear but just couldn’t seem to get a stick on it.
In the second period, the Kings answered back with a power play goal of their own when Columbus took consecutive penalties. Tyler Toffoli slipped the puck underneath a sprawling Sergei Bobrovsky who wasn’t able to cover it and Jeff Carter put it home after Anze Kopitar fanned on his attempt. Ten minutes later, Kopitar was injured on another power play and left the game with an upper body injury. But not to worry as Toffoli teamed up with Carter (no this isn’t a recording, honest) to give the Kings their first lead in the game when Carter (wisely) elected to pass instead of shoot and Toffoli went top shelf. Shortly after that, Dwight King ended up with the eventual game winner when he sniped the puck past Bobrovsky. Less than 30 seconds later, Mark Letestu answered back with a goal that Jonathan Quick would probably want back.
The goal set the scene for a tense, tight and highly energetic third. For the most part anyway. Quick was solid and shut the door after giving up a weak goal while the prolific “’70s line” exploded for an additional four points (two goals from Tanner Pearson and one assist each from Carter and Toffoli). In the midst of all this was Nick Foligno’s injury. In a board battle with Carter, Foligno ran into a linesman and subsequently injured his head or neck. He was down on the ice for several minutes and was eventually stretchered off the ice to a standing ovation at Staples Center. The good news, as mentioned above, was that Foligno appeared to be doing ok and is well enough to travel with the team back to Columbus.
The game returned but it was a little slow for a few minutes. Gradually, as the players got back to the task at hand, the crowd at Staples began to show signs of life as well. It wasn’t until Pearson won a footrace and beat Bobrovsky clean that the crowd really started to wake up.
Injuries and Resuming Game Action
When a player is so injured that he needs to be stretchered off the ice, it’s tough to see how people are expected to act like it’s no big deal, everything’s fine, including the professionals who are getting paid to play this game. This is different and has less gravity than the Rich Peverley situation given Foligno’s immediate prognosis, but many felt that it should be treated with the same respect. While Foligno was down on the ice, Staples Center was dead silent; you could hear a pin drop. It was a scary moment with 18,000 plus fans not really knowing what just happened and why there was someone on the ice. It was even scarier when the stretcher came out. However, in this case, with just over 11 minutes left on the clock, postponement probably wasn’t a real option as it could’ve been in other games. The other option was to just end the game, but that feels like it would’ve been denying Columbus a chance to collect two valuable points and win it for Foligno. So that just leaves picking up where the game left off.
Game resumption is something that should be taken on a case-by-case basis. In the end, though, no matter the decision, the health of the player is all that matters.
A Franchise Record And Looking Ahead
With Sunday’s win, the Kings set a franchise record of six consecutive victories at home. The defending champions got off to a slow start in the season but were fortunate to come up against weak possession teams in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Buffalo in the early part of the schedule. Only St. Louis and Minnesota gave them trouble in the corsi and fenwick statistics department but on the back of excellent goaltending and some timely goal scoring (though they were technically shutout by St. Louis), they managed to eek out enough (perhaps undeserved in a couple cases) wins to keep their streak alive.
Looking ahead, the Kings will need to find some production outside of their second line. Carter, Toffoli and Pearson have combined to score 16 of the team’s 21 goals this season. With Kopitar out of the lineup, that could loom large for the team that relies heavily on their number one center to kill penalties as well as provide offense. The team is still under the 33-day league mandate and are unable to call up any players on an emergency basis. They’re stretched to the max with Slava Voynov‘s cap hit still on the books due to his indefinite suspension, and Marian Gaborik still day-to-day with an undisclosed injury and Trevor Lewis on injured reserve with an upper body injury. The good news is that both Gaborik and Lewis have started skating and Lewis seems like he’s making progress.
They’ll face a tough test on the road with a battle of Pennsylvania and a back-to-back in Detroit where they’ve had little success over the years. From there they head to North Carolina and cap it off with a trip to the American Airlines Center where they’ve also faced little recent success.
Jonathan Quick won’t keep up his gaudy (albeit very small seven-game sample) .953 save percentage so the rest of the team will need to continue to step up their game and return to the possession monsters that they’re known for. It’ll be tough if Kopitar is out of the lineup for an extended period of time, but they are more than capable of doing it.