Kings hang tough for 2-1 shootout victory over Predators
NASHVILLE — To even reach the highlight package known as the shootout — in which Anze Kopitar won it for the Kings in the third round — the Kings had to do some decidedly unglamorous and old-school work Thursday night.
The Kings had to kill off a four-on-three in overtime against Nashville, which meant facing the weapon of defenseman Shea Weber’s shot. They may not have emerged unscathed, but they survived and won, 2-1, in a shootout against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, giving them three wins on this four-game trip and four out of five overall.
Nashville forward Matt Cullen and Kings defenseman Slava Voynov traded goals in regulation, and for Voynov, it was his second goal in two games, this one coming off a nice cross-ice pass from Mike Richards with 41.1 seconds left in the first period.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick bounced back from his last start, in which he was pulled at Tampa Bay. He made 34 saves and maintained his perfect run in the three shootouts this season, having stopped all eight attempts.
Quick wasn’t about to declare his love for the shootout. “One year you do well in it and the other, not so well,” he said. “It’s kind of a crapshoot, to be honest.”
Shootouts bookended the trip. The Kings started the journey with a 2-1 win at Carolina. This time, Kopitar went after Richards and Jeff Carter, who were unsuccessful, and the adjustment in the shooting order helped him against Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
“I saw Jeff and Mike try to shoot, so I figured I’d mix it up a little bit,” said Kopitar, who went to his backhand. “I was fortunate enough that my move worked.”
Drama heightened in overtime when Kings defenseman Alec Martinez went off for high sticking Ryan Ellis. Penalty killers Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell were able to keep a tight triangle early on and helped minimize Weber’s impact.
“The guys did a fantastic job,” Kopitar said. “It’s really their forte. You don’t hear a lot about it. The most important thing is the guys in here appreciate it more than anybody on the outside.”
Said Quick: “They did a great job taking away what they were trying to do. Obviously, they’re looking for Weber to get that shot off and we did a good job taking that away.”
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter was asked if the four-on-three was something the Kings worked a lot on in practice. “No, because it takes a lot of courage to kill a four-on-three,” he said. “Generally, you’re going to have to get in front of a hard puck shot somewhere.”
Illustrating that point, Mitchell had ice bags on his leg as he spoke to reporters. “It’s nice to claw back and give something back when you felt like you gave them one,” Mitchell said.
The penalty kill in overtime helped take away some of the sting of Cullen’s goal at 10:33 of the first period, which made it 1-0 for Nashville. It came after a breakdown and scramble in front of Quick, and Mitchell blamed himself for the goal.
“I made a bad read before that, a guy snuck by me,” Mitchell said. “I looked over the wrong shoulder and he snuck over the other side and got a shot on Quickie. The puck was in front of the net and I kind of had my back to the play, so I was trying to push it back to him.”
That was the only goal Quick allowed.
“He was sharp tonight,” Sutter said. “He was good early and this building is a good test for him because it’s a building where he’s had a tough time.”
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