The Los Angeles Kings opened their post bye-week play with a 5-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.
Forward Brendan Perlini and Jordan Martinook both had two goals and goalie Mike Smith made 41 saves for the Coyotes in the win. Tanner Pearson had two goals and an assist and Dustin Brown had one goal and two points for the Kings in the loss.
“I don’t think our goaltending was very good tonight,” head coach Darryl Sutter told LA Kings Insider. “Big saves and bad goals are the difference in most hockey games now.” Peter Budaj put together a less than admirable effort for Los Angeles where he allowed four goals on 22 shots in his team’s loss.
For the Coyotes, this was the first win of the season against their Pacific Division rival and a win that wrapped up a three-game road trip in which they went 2-1-0. The two teams will meet two more times before their season series concludes.
The opening few minutes were just like any Coyotes-Kings game — tight-checking play matched with a decent flow to the game. However, a penalty to Jeff Carter just over three and a half minutes into the game’s opening period shifted the momentum into Arizona’s favor.
While on the ensuing power play, Radim Vrbata skated along the right boards and fed Brendan Perlini who was driving through the slot. Drew Doughty had a play on the puck and almost intercepted the pass but the puck bounced over his stick and found its way onto Perlini’s stick. The forward fanned on the initial shot but beat Budaj on his stick side with a second attempt at the shot.
Then, before Staples Center had recouped from allowing the game’s first goal, the Kings were punched in the gut again. Just 16 seconds after Perlini gave the Coyote’s a 1-0 lead, Tobias Rieder stretched his team’s lead to two.
After a turnover in the neutral zone, Rieder skated the puck wide and into the Kings’ zone. As the forward went below the goal line and towards he cut toward the slot and put a shot over Budaj who was hugging the post and covering the short side.
With just under nine minutes remaining in the first period the Coyotes held a 2-0 lead on the scoreboard but were being outshot by the King 5-3 — not always a recipe for success but it worked early.
The remainder of the first period didn’t yield many opportunities for either team. One of the few high-quality chances came when 20-year-old Adrian Kempe, who was making his NHL debut, fought off a back-checker for a breakaway opportunity. He made a move to his backhand but shot the puck wide of Smith and the net.
Los Angeles controlled the tempo and kept the play in Arizona’s end for big chunks to start the second period. It wasn’t until almost ten minutes into the game’s middle frame that the Coyotes got their first shot on goal.
At the ten-minute mark of the period, and the middle point of the game, the Kings were outshooting the Coyotes 21-10 but were still trailing 2-0 where it mattered most.
The Kings’ best chance of the period came with 5:19 remaining in the period. Alec Martinez, who was coming out of the penalty box, left a drop pass for Tanner Pearson who fired a wrist shot from the high slot. The shot beat Smith high but rang off the crossbar and out of play.
Overall, the story of the first two periods was Smith’s play in net and the Arizona’s defense. Although the Kings had a 23-14 advantage in shots on goal there were very few second chance opportunities, a testament to Smith’s control and Arizona’s strong play in front of him.
The final period of the game turned into a wild ride for both sides. In the first half of the period, the Kings were knocking on the door trying to cut into the Coyotes’ lead but Smith stood tall. Most notably Smith made two high quality saves on Kopitar in the first half to sustain his team’s lead.
But on the Kings’ 30th shot of the game, Pearson found a Carter rebound on the left side and released a quick shot past Smith to narrow the Coyotes’ lead to one goal with over eleven minutes to play. It was the break Los Angeles was looking for.
— Eric (@Kingsgifs) February 17, 2017
Just as the Kings showed a sign of life, though, the Coyotes were quick to regain their two-goal lead. Less than two minutes after Pearson scored Los Angeles’ first goal, Perlini took a breakout pass in his own zone and skated the length of the ice. Once in Los Angeles’ zone, the forward released a shot from the left side that squeaked through Budaj.
The back and forth period continued over the next several minutes with Brown taking a Carter pass in the slot and beating Smith to make the score 3-2. However, again, the Coyotes were quick to push the lead back to two with a shorthanded goal by Jordan Martinook. A game-changing goal that most would consider soft on Budaj’s part.
The Kings thought they had again answered with a goal of their own just 31 seconds after Martinook gave Arizona their two-goal lead back. There was a scramble in front of the Coyotes’ net which eventually ended with the puck being pushed under a sprawling Smith and into the net. However, the play was whistled dead and the goal wasn’t counted. After the play went to review, it was announced that the initial shot was stopped by Smith and the ref lost sight of the puck and blew his whistle resulting in the play being dead before the puck went in.
With a two-goal deficit still intact, the Kings were forced to pull Budaj late. The extra attacker didn’t pay off as Martinook buried an empty-net goal to extend his team’s lead to 5-2. Pearson scored his second goal of the game in the final 30 seconds of the game but it was too little too late for the Kings.
A disallowed goal, some soft goals by Budaj on one end and big saves by Smith on the other end spelled out an uplifting 5-3 victory for the Coyotes and a disappointing two-goal loss for the Kings.
ARZ – Brendan Perlini (9) PPG assisted by Radim Vrbata (28) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23)
ARZ – Tobias Rieder (13) assisted by Jordan Martinook (11)
LAK – Tanner Pearson (17) assisted by Jeff Carter (23) and Dustin Brown (18)
ARZ – Brendan Perlini (10) assisted by Alex Goligoski (19)
LAK – Dustin Brown (9) assisted by Tanner Pearson (14)
ARZ – Jordan Martinook (9) SHG – unassisted
ARZ- Jordan Martinook (10) – assisted by Chrisitian Dvorak (12) and Josh Jooris (3)
LAK – Tanner Pearson (18) assisted by Anze Kopitar (27) and Jake Muzzin (11)
THW Three Stars
First: Brendan Perlini (2 goals)
Second: Mike Smith (41 saves)
Third: Tanner Pearson (2 goals, 1 assist)
Florida Panthers @ Los Angeles Kings
Staples Center – 7:00 PM PST Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017
Broadcast Channels: FS-W, FS-F
2016-17 Season Series:
Feb. 9, 2016 – Kings 6 – Panthers 3
San Jose Sharks @ Arizona Coyotes
Pepsi Center – 1:00 PM MST Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017
Broadcast Channels: FS-A, CSN-CA
2016-17 Season Series:
Nov. 1, 2016 – Coyotes 3 – Sharks 2
Nov. 19, 2016 – Coyotes 3 – Sharks 2 (OT)
Nov. 29, 2016 – Sharks 2 – Coyotes 1 (OT)
Feb. 4. 2017 – Coyotes 3 – Sharks 2 (SO)
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.