This should have been the end of the ride for the Kings: A three-hour time swing, against a stringent Eastern Conference team, without their No. 2 center, Jeff Carter.
But the Kings persisted, through an ugly first period and a potentially game-swinging, game-tying goal late in the second period. They walked out of Nationwide Arena on Saturday with a 6-4 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets to remain the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss (6-0-1).
Here’s what we learned:
Alex Iafallo is doing the little things
The rookie had two assists and was a plus-5 for the game, along with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar. Iafallo made the initial play on a move to the net that freed up time and space for Brown to hang on to the puck and find Kopitar for the game-winning goal.
Iafallo hasn’t looked out of place in seven NHL games, and he appears to be giving Kings just the shot of youthful instinct they’ve needed.
Brooks Laich hopped back on the bike
It wasn’t quite that easy, but Laich jumped into his first game since April 9, 2016. He played one preseason game and has been skating with the Kings, but he was thrown into a heightened situation.
“A little behind the eight-ball there,” Laich said. “But I wanted to survive the first period. I wanted to get the legs under me. I wanted to get as many touches as I could. Third period, I started to feel like I found my game a little bit.”
Laich was on the ice for a Columbus goal but it was mostly a solid 12 minute, 7-second game for a veteran depth player. He saw considerable time in the third period, on a line with Trevor Lewis and Adrian Kempe.
“I want to reward [Kings coach John Stevens] for putting me on the ice,” Laich said. “Something I want to do is build that.”
The offense continues to amaze
It’s still jarring to see defensemen head to the net and players send passes through the middle in their own zone — things that would make former coach Darryl Sutter cringe.
But the Kings’ passing in the offensive zone is far more creative than it was in the final years under Sutter. This continues to put them at risk of more turnovers, and they were clearly not sharp at the start Saturday, but the results are there.