The Los Angeles Kings’ troubles away from Staples Center this season have become more and more apparent, particularly on the heels of a 3-2 shootout loss to the lowly Oilers in Edmonton — this coming one night after a 2-1 regulation loss to the Calgary Flames.
Heading into their New Year’s Day (or, more accurately, night) match in Vancouver, the Kings had recorded just 4 victories in 18 road contests, compared to 14 victories in 20 home games. But maybe there is something to the “new year, new [insert item here]” cliche for the Kings, as they started 2015 with a memorable come-from-behind 3-2 regulation win in British Columbia against a surprisingly strong Canucks squad.
In their previous games against the Flames and Oilers, the Kings controlled much of the play and had a decisive advantage in shots and shot attempts, but occasional lapses and an inability to finish on scoring chances ultimately did them in. Against the Canucks, LA’s territorial advantage was even more pronounced — through two periods, they had fired 30 shots on goal compared to just 10 for Vancouver — but they still found themselves down 2-1, and it was actually 2-0 before Dwight King halved the deficit with a goal fairly late in the 2nd period.
The Canucks had been the more opportunistic team, and Ryan Miller and company had also managed to keep the Kings from converting on their chances. With time winding down late in the 3rd period, it looked like the Kings would suffer yet another frustrating defeat. But a hooking penalty against Vancouver’s Ryan Stanton offered a glimmer of hope, and that was all the defending champs needed. Justin Williams beat Miller cleanly with a brilliant shot from the right face-off circle, going top-shelf when it appeared there was almost no room.
With just 2:07 remaining in regulation at that point, one would have figured the Kings would have been happy to get to overtime and secure at least one point after having trailed in the game for so long. Los Angeles was not satisfied, however, and needed just 53 seconds to score again and take the lead for good. Jarret Stoll scored on another high shot — this one from the left circle — after a great cross-ice pass from Tanner Pearson. The Kings then staved off the Canucks for the final 1:14 and locked up a brilliant, memorable, and much-needed road victory to start the 2015 calendar year.
Pearson, whose strong work along the boards in the Vancouver zone and eventual cross-ice pass set up Stoll’s game-winner, knows that any win is important, but also indicated the significance of winning such a game on the road.
“Yeah,” said Pearson, when asked about the importance of the victory. “I think, especially when you look at the standings and two and three and how the wildcards are, you want to get points. I think it’s good for our hockey club to get them on the road right now too.” (lakingsinsider.com)
Head coach Darryl Sutter feels that the Kings have not been playing poorly on the road, which is supported by the aforementioned puck control and shot attempts advantages they have had in most of their games. He indicated after the game that there is more to their road play than just looking at their record, even though this league is ultimately based on results. The Kings have found themselves on the wrong end of many low-scoring games as they jockey for position in the Pacific Division.
“Well, it’s [inaudible] because we don’t have the wins for it,” Sutter said after the game against Vancouver, when asked about whether the victory provided a sense of relief given the team’s struggles away from home. “I know when you don’t watch us all the time you’re just going to look at the stat and say that, right? But the effort in that, I’ve never had any issue with that, or any part. If you look at how close the games – other than two or three this year – how close and low scoring they’ve been, quite honest, that’s the way the division is.” (lakingsinsider.com)
For the Kings, hopefully the law of averages will kick in and they will start finding themselves on the winning end of more of these close games, provided their effort and high level of play continue. The win in Vancouver is certainly a good way to begin that change in direction, and for them, it is hopefully a sign of what’s in store for 2015. We will not know f0r awhile, though, what this win ultimately means for their road fortunes, as the Kings now begin a 7-game home-stand. Nevertheless, they can still look to this Vancouver game as a momentum changer and secure some points at Staples before heading back out on the road.
Despite the slew of home games, the Kings will need to be at the top of their game, as all of the teams they are facing, with the exception of the New Jersey Devils, have winning records. The home-stand starts with the extremely formidable Nashville Predators (51 points) on Saturday and then the red-hot New York Rangers on Thursday, in a Stanley Cup Final rematch.