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What we learned from the Kings' 4-3 defeat of the Canucks

What we learned from the Kings' 4-3 defeat of the Canucks
Kings winger Marian Gaborik (12) skates across the crease trying to score against Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom and defenseman Derrick Pouliot during the third period Saturday. (Darryl Dyck / Canadian Press)

As the calendar year ended for the Kings, two characteristics continued to stand out going into the new year: Their best players come through on an almost nightly basis, as does their clutch play in the third period.

Drew Doughty made up for a rare embarrassing defensive miscue with the game-winning goal, and the Kings pushed their aggregate third-period scoring edge to 50-24 this season with two goals in Saturday’s 4-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks.

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Here’s what we learned:

This was one of the Kings’ more balanced games of late.

All four lines rolled well and the Kings mostly got their checking game back in order. They wobbled some and Vancouver found easy ways into the Kings’ end at times, but they took better care of the puck, as measured by just two giveaways.

“I thought for the most part, everybody contributed,” said Kyle Clifford, who scored his first goal of the season. “I thought there was a little lapse in the second period, but we adjusted pretty quickly and that was great to see our group battle back. That’s just the type of character guys we’ve got in here. We’ve got a real strong team identity, and I think it showed tonight.”

The second line has chemistry.

The line of Marian Gaborik, Adrian Kempe and Tyler Toffoli was noticeable all night, and not just because of their combined two goals, five assists and nine shots. They were also matched up frequently with Vancouver’s top line of Brock Boeser, Thomas Vanek and Sam Gagner, which was a combined minus-3.

Gaborik seemed to be energized, and he put a shot off the crossbar on a breakaway.

“I thought they really skated,” Kings Coach John Stevens said. “I thought they played responsible. I think when they play a 200-foot game and they really get back and get on top of pucks, they end up with the puck more.”

The power play got a nudge.

Stuck in a one-for-17 slump over the previous nine games with a man advantage, the Kings broke through on Gaborik’s easy chip-in goal on a feed from Lewis, who saw brief time on the unit.

The Kings are still not drawing enough penalties. They got two power plays, which makes 19 opportunities over 10 games. Sometimes it takes one strike to steer a team out of a rut, though, so perhaps this is a start.

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