Far from fancy, the Kings relied on puck management Monday night at Honda Center.
Dump and chase, control the pace.
It was less about the numbers, and more about how the Kings handled the puck, where they placed it, and the decisions they made with it to evade Anaheim’s healthy attack in a 3-1 win, now leading this series 2-0.
The fancy, though not the theme of the night for the Kings, is what got them on the board during the game’s opening shift, as Marian Gaborik registered his third goal of the series just :34 seconds into play.
After digging the puck out of their zone on Anaheim’s first pressure of the night, the Kings went full steam ahead on a 3-on-2 rush.
As Marian Gaborik sped past Anaheim’s Ben Lovejoy, Anze Kopitar delivered a perfectly placed pass for Gaborik to skate into, and with his momentum, lost the Ducks’ defense and lifted a shot over Jonas Hiller’s blocker side and to the top shelf to give the Kings 1-0 lead.
It was Gaborik’s sixth goal of the postseason; he now leads the NHL in that category.
Kopitar, with his assist on Gaborik’s goal, now has registered at least one point in every one of the Kings’ nine playoff games, and leads the NHL in postseason scoring with 14 points (4G, 10A).
The Kings came into Monday’s game having killed off 19 straight penalties dating back to Game 5 against San Jose.
On Anaheim’s first power play of the evening, after Drew Doughty was called for a hooking infraction 8:54 into the game, the Kings’ brute streak of fending off opposition’s man-advantage opportunities was snapped.
Patrick Maroon, who was attempting a pass to Corey Perry across the crease, couldn’t connect with his teammate, but his intended pass deflected off the left skate of Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin and past Jonathan Quick to even the score 1-1 with 10:20 remaining in the first period.
Less than three minutes after Maroon tied the game for Anaheim, the Kings struck back; Alec Martinez sending home his second goal in as many games.
While the Kings controlled the puck deep in Anaheim’s zone, Tyler Toffoli found Martinez, who was signaling for the puck, atop the point with a tight-seamed pass.
Martinez, with room, walked in, wound up, and whistled a rocket that deflected off an Anaheim defenseman and past Jonas Hiller to give the Kings a 2-1 lead with 7:53 remaining in the first period.
This, a lead they would not relinquish.
From there on out, it was about puck management for the Kings. It was about making smart, conservative plays to avoid the Ducks’ having any opportune chances with time and space.
They played simple; they soaked in Anaheim’s attacks, making the simple stop, clear, or dump-in to keep the Ducks at bay.
Anaheim outshot the Kings 27-9 over the course of the final two periods, and 37-17 overall.
Jonathan Quick was spectacular, making 36 saves for his sixth straight postseason win between the pipes.
Darryl Sutter showed an outstanding amount of confidence in his roster Monday, namely Jeff Schultz, who was making his debut in a Kings uniform after spending the season in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs.
Schultz was solid, blocking two shots, delivering a pair of hits, and seeing a healthy chunk of time on the penalty kill in just under 20 minutes (19:58) of ice time in his first go-around with this roster.
Sutter’s confidence saw Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson get time on the penalty kill unit as well.
The Kings have now won six straight playoff games, four straight on the road, and will take a 2-0 series lead with them back to STAPLES Center Thursday for Game 3 which is slated for a 7:00 PM PST start.