Kings 5, Nashville Predators 1
First of all, give me some credit for staying up living in central time zone to watch a game between two teams who don't score much but take great pride in tight, defensive-minded hockey with great goaltending.
Sure it is boring, but its the way hockey is supposed to be played.
But thank God I did stay up, because I as well as all King fans who watched or were at this game, were rewarded with an offensive explosion in the third period.
Jeff Carter made a couple of excellent, highly skilled plays to give the Kings a 2-0, then a 3-0 lead scoring again a mere 19 seconds apart.
His Philadelphia Flyer buddy Mike Richards then made it 4-0 on a power play, followed by Dwight Kings' first goal of the season as the big left winger drove hard to the net.
Kings' goal prompted Nashville coach Barry Trotz to finally relieve Pekka Rinne from his duties. It is going to be a rough ride for the Preds back to Nashville, as the team lost all three contests of its West coast visit to Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles while being outscored 12-3 in the process.
The Kings made sure the Predators knew who they were after Nashville had won its previous two meetings 2-1 in a shootout and 3-0 in the Music City. Even though both teams are similarly designed, the Kings, with a little more star power proved to be the better team tonight.
Imagine if the Predators had been able to acquire Mike Richards and/or Jeff Carter...
Last year would have been the other way around perhaps?
If it is one thing that is keeping a team like the Predators from going all the way it is simply their lack of depth and scoring. Even with the addition of Mike Richards, the Kings were still missing one big piece to the puzzle. Jeff Carter was that piece the Kings were missing to finally help put it all together.
Carter's hat trick tonight moved him into second place in the NHL with 14 goals, one shy behind Tampa's Steven Stamkos.
Jonathan Bernier was exceptional in goal again for the Kings, who really need him more than ever. Bernier calmly turned aside 17 Predator shots on goal before Gabriel Bourque ended the shutout bid with a high snap shot over Bernier's goal stick with less than seven minutes left to play.
Where would the Kings be without Mr. Bernier? Like I have said since the beginning of the season, Bernier is going to have to play a legitimate role for the Kings to have a shot at retaining their crown. Coach Darryl Sutter did not believe in this blueprint earlier on, but now seems to have his goaltending situation under control. In four of Bernier's five victories thus far, he has allowed just one goal against and thus deserves even more playing time.
More rest for Quick thanks to a better than average backup goaltender can only prove to be very beneficial heading into the playoffs and into the off-season where the Kings will finally look to move Bernier for some even better pieces.
But I find Bernier in a rather tough decision. Does the 25 year-old former Kings "goalie of the future" decide to stay in LA and help Quick and the club continue to win, or should he remain steadfast in his willingness to be sent elsewhere with a chance to establish himself as a true #1 goaltender in the NHL?
Currently, teams like the Panthers, Devils, Flames, Avalanche to name a few, could certainly use a young future stud goaltender and I am sure the Kings would be able to get a kings' ransom for his services. But right now, LA really does need him and are in no position to give him up. So, credit Dean Lombardi and company for being patient when it comes to Bernier's future.
On Tuesday, it will be Jonathan Quick's turn to get back on track after a poor performance on Saturday in Vancouver.
Once again, time to separate the men from the boys...tonight the "man" was Jeff Carter...who will it be tomorrow?