The Los Angeles Kings remain the hottest team in hockey with their 3-2 overtime victory over the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings started the game slowly, looking tired in the second of a back-to-back. They found their feet, though, earning a win in Phillip Danault’s return to Montreal. Here are four takeaways from the King’s victory.
Iafallo and Kempe Remain Hot
Heading into this season, Alex Iafallo was seen as a defense-first puck retriever who could do all of the dirty work for Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown on the first line. The main criticism against him was his lack of production on that line, but this is turning into a breakout season offensively for him, with 13 points in 13 games now. He has points in seven straight games, with ten points during this stretch.
Of course, he’s running hot right now and will eventually slow down, but he looks to be more than just a puck retriever this season, thriving with his new center Danault. Despite his line being out-possessed, a rare occurrence for them, they had more chances than their opponents, and Iafallo grabbed the Kings’ second goal. It’s great to see such a hard-working player get rewarded with points and his play has been a big reason the team has won six straight.
Another player running very hot right now is Adrian Kempe. After starting the season fairly slow, he has hit his stride, now on a five-game point streak with six points in that time. He has always been a very streaky scorer, so we’ll see how long this level of play lasts, but it’s so fun to watch him when he’s hot. His overtime goal was a thing of beauty, taking control of the shift before eventually burning Jake Evans to the net and finishing emphatically past Jake Allen. He’s a player built for 3-on-3 hockey, as his speed and size allow him to take advantage of the extra space he’s given. It will be interesting to see if Kempe keeps his spot on the top line after Viktor Arvidsson returns to the lineup or if he is reunited with Iafallo and Danault on the second line. Hopefully, we see him find the consistency he’s never had in his career this season, as this would be huge for the Kings’ playoff hope.
Petersen Solid in Net
This was supposed to be the season when Cal Petersen took possession of the Kings net, but this hasn’t been the case after a shaky start for him and a magnificent start for Quick. But he looked good in this game and might be on the right track. He finished the game with 33 saves, and a .943 save percentage, saving 0.75 goals above expected. It wasn’t quite the stellar performance we saw from Quick against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it was a solid game from Petersen. He looked calm in the net, specifically during the Habs’ late powerplay.
Seeing both his goalies play well on back-to-back nights has to put a huge smile on coach Todd McLellan’s face, as a deadly goalie tandem could be huge in the team’s pursuit of a postseason return. This is just one game, and we need to see this level of play more consistently from Petersen, but this is a good sign that he’s on the right track.
Kings Heavily Lost the Physical Battle
Not too surprising considering how young this Kings team is, but the Habs seemed to bully the Kings at times, clearly setting the tone physically all game. The Habs finished the game with 33 hits, almost double the Kings 16. It wasn’t just hitting in volume either, they were laying some heavy checks on the Kings, specifically the young players. Arthur Kaliyev was dumped on more than one occasion, and Rasmus Kupari was absolutely crushed by Alexander Romanov.
Fortunately, being the more physical team doesn’t always lead to wins, but it is something to note. Some of the Kings players, specifically Brendan Lemieux and Brown, responded well to the physical game, but two players aren’t enough. It was great seeing Brown turn back the clock, crunching Nick Suzuki in overtime.
Fourth Line Showed Up
During the team’s six-game losing streak early in the season, a big issue was the poor play from the bottom six. Against the Leafs, it was the third line that stepped up and provided secondary scoring. Against the Habs, it was the fourth line who not only grabbed a goal but also played very well overall. They out-possessed, out-shot, and out-scored their opponents in this game, providing some much-needed help to the team’s top six.
Lemieux was a particular highlight from this game, scoring the goal and playing his role of pest brilliantly. He had the whole Canadiens team frustrated with him, particularly Michael Pezzetta, who took two quick penalties because of Lemieux. This young Kings team lacks sandpaper in their lineup, making Lemieux an important piece for the team. The team has yet to lose a game with him in the lineup; of course, he isn’t the main reason for that, but I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental either. I’ve never been his biggest fan, but I can’t deny that his grit has been a huge addition to the team.
Kings Continue the Streak
The Kings are red hot right now, playing some of the best hockey we’ve seen from them in a long time. They’re finding ways to win close games and are getting quality starts from both goalies. They desperately need to figure out their powerplay, though, as they were awful once again in this game. Adding an even decent powerplay to this team would be huge, as they’re rarely able to take advantage with the extra man. Eventually, the Kings will lose a game, and it will be fascinating to see how this young team responds.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.