They made it interesting, but the Los Angeles Kings held on for a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
The Kings controlled most of the first two periods, heading into the third with a 4-1 lead. They let their foot off the gas in the third though, allowing Detroit back into the game. An early power-play goal from Dylan Larkin and a late 6-on-5 goal from Filip Hronek gave the Kings a scare. The team held on, giving them their fourth straight win and a 4-0 homestand.
"It was a good homestand, I thought our road trip set us up for that," said Todd McLellan. "We played a really good game in St. Louis, got spanked in Dallas, learned a lesson, and probably deserved better in Chicago so it gave us some momentum coming home. You look at the goals against on the homestand. Even tonight it wasn't an even strength (goal) against, it was two powerplays and a 6-on-5. Powerplays last game and a shutout, so we haven't given up much 5-on-5 which we're happy about. A few things to clean up, but good teams play with detail all the time, over and over and over again they don't let it slip and that's what we're pushing to be."
A big part of tonight's win was the King's improved powerplay. They scored two on the man advantage and had another goal just after a powerplay expired. This came directly after the Kings practiced the powerplay at length Friday.
The standout player for the LA Kings was defensemen Sean Durzi. He grabbed two goals in the second period and has grown more comfortable playing the left side next to Matt Roy recently.
"I wouldn't say it's getting easier, because it's a hard task," said McLellan of Durzi on the left. "He's getting more accustomed to it. He's learning, or maybe he's learned already, when those pressure points come and how to react to them. If you haven't played over there on your offside that's all brand new. Some of the situations he's been caught in, you don't see him caught in those spots anymore. Repetition, practice, and playing, he's doing a really good job."
This was a big chance for Cal Petersen, who got his first start in since last Tuesday. He played well, with 0.38 goals saved below expected and a .857 save percentage. He played better than the numbers showed, giving up zero goals at 5-on-5 and making some big saves when called upon. He isn't where the Kings need him to be, but he's getting there.
The Kings are starting to find their game, looking like the dominant even-strength team they were last season. There's still work to be done on special teams, but Saturday was a step in the right direction for the power play. The penalty kill needs fixing though. Going 2-4 won't cut it in the NHL and they can't rely on scoring four goals every game.
That being said, it's hard to complain about a 4-0 homestand and four wins in your last five.
The LA Kings start a four-game Pacific Division road trip Monday against Darryl Sutter's Calgary Flames. This trip should give them an excellent measuring stick for where they're at relative to their division. A strong four games and the excitement will really start to build around this team.