The Los Angeles Kings are establishing their identity as a team that will find ways to win games. Last night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets was no different. Going into the third period, they were down 3-1 but they did not give up and found a way to send it to overtime where they won in dramatic fashion. Here are three takeaways from the game.
Second Period Struggle
The Kings looked great throughout the first period. They were putting quality shots on the net but Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins was simply outstanding and kept them in the game. The Blue Jackets clearly made some adjustments during the intermission and came into the second period looking way better than the first. It was the Kings, however, who struck first. Viktor Arvidsson broke the deadlock late in the second with a perfectly timed wrist shot off of a set play.
The Kings did not hold onto their lead for long. Just minutes later, the Blue Jackets set a new franchise record by scoring three goals in the span of 46 seconds. It was a complete defensive collapse and it was the second game in a row that the Kings fell apart at the end of the second.
This trend is certainly concerning, but there is no need for panic. Normally when teams struggle with playing a “full 60 minutes” they have issues either early or late in games. The Kings find themselves in the unique position of falling apart for the last five minutes of the second. It is also important to note that Kings head coach Todd McLellan is currently out on COVID-19 protocol and that he might be able to tweak what has been happening in the second when he returns to the team.
In addition to scoring his hat trick, Arvidsson hit the post not once, but twice. It is hard to believe that the game could have gone even better for him. The fact that, with a little more luck, he could have had a five-goal game showcases his scoring prowess. The 28-year-old forward has hit his stride with the Kings. Since being placed on the second line with Trevor Moore and Phillip Danault, he has looked incredible. For the first time in years, their second line is a formidable threat and it is due, in large part, to the shoot-first mentality of Arvidsson that perfectly balances out the more conservative, playmaking skillsets of Moore and Danault.
The Kings acquired Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators last offseason for a 2021 second-round selection and a 2022 third-round selection. Given that he has already scored 18 goals this season and will not be an unrestricted free agent until 2024, it appears as if they may have gotten the steal of the offseason. The acquisition of Arvidsson is just one of the many moves general manager Rob Blake has been making to bring the Kings to the next level.
A Turning Point
Throughout the television broadcast last night, Kings announcers Alex Faust and Jim Fox were stressing the importance of this game as a “turning point” in the season. Although they looked down and out after the second, they did what they needed to do to force themselves back into the game.
The Kings set the tone early in the third. Dustin Brown, who had not scored a goal since January, found a way to sneak a wrist shot past Merzlikins. Veterans lead in big moments and Brown did just that. While his production has gone down recently, he is still a valuable asset to a Kings team that is brimming with young talent. Scoring the goal to put them back in the game is just one example of how he is a great example for the younger players to follow.
The game settled down after Brown’s goal as the Kings looked to tie the game and the Blue Jackets sought to grow their lead. With under ten minutes to go, Kings’ netminder Jonathan Quick came up with a huge save on a clear-cut breakaway by Oliver Bjorkstrand. He kept his team in the game long enough for Arvidsson to tie it up with under four minutes left.
Overtime was an emotional rollercoaster for the Kings. It looked as if they would not be able to complete the comeback when Boone Jenner beat Quick on a rebound attempt. They had a second chance when the play was ruled offside. Turned out, it was a sign. Arvidsson answered the call and won the game by completing his hat trick with a beautiful breakaway goal.
After losing two straight, the Kings found a way to win against Columbus despite the many ups and downs. It is just the latest in a recent string of character wins. As the team looks to solidify themselves in a playoff position, they can use this game as motivation to continue to play hard, even when they fall behind, down the stretch especially since they have a lot of must-win division games coming up.
As a native Angeleno, Katie Nash is a life-long Kings fan and experienced amateur hockey journalist. She is excited to provide her perspective through covering the Kings for The Hockey Writers.
Follow her on instagram @la.kings.hockey.