Kings 1 @ Avalanche 3
Early in this one, the Kings looked to regain their Stanley Cup form over the young and speedy Avalanche. However, the Avalanche were able to stick close to the defending champs, finding a way similar to the Kings' playoff run to steal the victory.
A relentless fore-check led to several chances on Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov in the opening minutes, but nothing found the back of the net until the fourth line finally cashed in on a rebound opportunity off the stick of Jordan Nolan, whose low shot was initially kicked out, but Kyle Clifford was able to knock it in crashing the net from the left side.
The Kings went to the locker room after the opening 20 minutes in good shape, matching the Avs speed and dictating much of the play. Quick was called upon to make one big save near the end of the period, sliding across to make a pad stop on an attempt from the left circle, with Slava Voynov supporting in good position.
The momentum in the second period seemed to even out quickly off the opening face off, as Alec Martinez' pass along the blue line with the man advantage was intercepted by Matt Duchene, who turned on the jets heading the other way towards Quick. Somehow, Martinez was able to catch up to Duchene before he could get a breakaway chance at Quick. Martinez was whistled for a hold, which I thought was one of those "phantom" calls, due to the fact that it appeared as if Duchene had originally grabbed Martinez trying to get around him instead of getting the shot off. Perhaps the referee felt it was necessary to call it on Martinez simply because he had coughed up the puck on the blue line with the Kings setting up their power play?
Minutes later, Dustin Brown was hauled down in front of the Avalanche bench by Ray Lewis, but neither was that called in LA's favor.
With the Kings still in control and ahead but just the lone first period tally, the Avalanche went to work on a 5-on-3 power play for a full minute and a half. With Doughty in the box for an errant high-stick and both Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell unavailable, enter Davis Drewiske who saw very little ice time with the Kings during last season's Cup run. The Kings needed someone other than their man in the mask to step up on the penalty kill and Drewiske helped do just that.
#44 in white did his job, fighting in front of the net, and Quick came up with a pair of huge saves in the first wave of attacks to keep the Avs off the board. Richards and Kopitar were then summoned to finish off the remaining time, sending the puck down twice after winning both battles from the initial face offs.
Although the Kings had shut down the Avalanche's glorious opportunity to at least tie the score, a fruitless power play of their own was shut down in return fashion by the Avs, blocking every attempt the Kings threw at them.
Give credit to the Avalanche. They came out firing in the third, scoring two quick goals to take a 2-1 lead. It was just a matter of time in which the Avs would finally strike the equalizer, buzzing around the Kings net after Quick made a couple point blank saves, but his friends couldn't help him out. Kopitar failed to clear the zone then a missed shot from the point bounced directly off the backboards and onto the stick of Gabriel Landeskog for an easy tap in.
The second and decisive goal for the Avalanche came soon after on the power play, when Drewiske's clearing attempt slapper around the boards took a funny bounce off the boards and somehow ended up right on the stick of David Jones all alone in the slot; merry Christmas David! Jones though, made an even better shot beating Quick high glove side to give the youthful Avs a 2-1 lead over the champs.
Colorado would score another goal later in the third, thanks again to another missed shot from the point taking a favorable bounce right to Parenteau with an open net beating a diving Doughty and Quick.
The Kings were given one more opportunity on the man advantage with about eight minutes to go in the third, and LA controlled the entire two minutes masterfully, and a hard shot off the stick of Martinez finally got past Varlamov over the shoulder, but it sent a loud resounding echo of iron throughout the Pepsi Center; the kind of sound when you know it just isn't your night.
Despite the tough loss, the Kings looked ready to go tonight contrary to Saturday's disaster following the ceremony of a lifetime. Next, the Kings will head to chilly Edmonton looking for its first win as defending champions. I would look for Mr. Bernier to finally get the nod in goal against another young and dynamic up-and-coming team in the Oilers.
• If the Kings fourth line continues to play this well, the Kings should be in good shape. Clifford could have easily scored four goals tonight, getting stopped twice on breakaway chances by Varlamov, not to mention the two chances he had streaking to the net on the left side but with Colin Fraser twice sending passes well behind him in which he could not pull the trigger.
• Who said Kopitar would be out 3-4 months? He showed no ill effects besides missing the net by a wide margin on a few shot attempts. But specifically coming back to help out defensively on an Avalanche three-on-two rush in the second period, #11 flew back into the picture to negate a second chance after Quick made the initial stop.
• With Quick coming off back surgery, the Kings have plenty of reason to give him more time off in a shortened yet exhilarating season. Jonathan Bernier needs to be given plenty of chances to start. Not only to keep Quick healthy and ready to go in October when the real 82-game season begins, but also to increase Bernier's trade value. It would be foolish to allow Quick to make 90% of the starts again after signing a 10-year extension. He needs playing time, yes, but the Kings should be cautious of him starting off a full season under the new lengthy CBA in October.