Kings Game 53 Plus/Minuses: Kempe & Kopitar Shine, Penalty Kill Struggles
Here are plus and minuses from the overtime loss.
A 5-4 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, in a game they led 4-1, will leave a sour taste in the Los Angeles Kings' mouth heading into the All-Star break.
Before the game started, most Kings fans and players probably would have taken a point if offered, but the context of the loss makes it sting.
Here are plus and minuses from the overtime loss.
+ Adrian Kempe:
Some people questioned if Adrian Kempe could follow up his 35-goal campaign last season with a similar one this year. Well, he's gone a long way to answering that question and nights like Tuesday remind you what a prolific goal scorer he is.
Neither of his goals were particularly pretty, but they are the kinds of goals you have to score to grab 30.
His first goal shows an awareness of space and timing. After Anze Kopitar was hooked and drew a penalty, he picked the puck up and was heading up the wall. Kempe identified open space at the back door and instantly attacked it. It was a great pass from Kopitar to give Kempe an easy tap-in, but Kempe played a big role in making the goal appear easy.
His second goal was a perfect representation of his skills. After a failed Kings breakout, Kempe hung around the red line before streaking for a breakaway after Drew Doughty regained possession. And, although Doughty's initial pass didn't find Kempe, he used his speed to beat out the icing and wire a shot past Frederik Andersen for his second of the night.
It showed off speed and a shot that can beat just about any goalie in the league.
– The Penalty Kill:
Any time your penalty kill goes zero percent on the night, it's a problem. And that's exactly what happened Tuesday.
It's not just the two goals against that are so problematic, it's the timing of the goals.
Despite the penalty kill struggling all season, one positive is their ability to get kills at important points of the game. It's something Todd McLellan has pointed to all season as a big strength for the team.
Tuesday, it was the exact opposite.
After Quinton Byfield took a delay of game penalty with 12:10 remaining in the game, up by one goal, the Kings looked to their penalty kill to come up big.
It didn't take long for Carolina to take advantage though, as 21 seconds later Teuvo Teravainen's strike tied the game at four. In need of a big kill, the Kings were let down.
The penalty kill had a chance to redeem themselves in overtime though, an area they've been good at all season. But, under a minute into a Doughty tripping penalty, Sebastian Aho called game. Putting Carolina's second power-play goal past Pheonix Copley to complete the comeback.
Yes, the real problem is the Kings taking penalties at bad times, but they needed their penalty kill to step up. It was an area that killed the Kings last season and could do so again if things don't change.
+ Anze Kopitar
What a road trip it's been for Kopitar.
With three points Tuesday, he heads into the All-Star break off the back of eight points in six games. Giving him 43 points in 53 games this season.
His assist to Kempe on the Kings' first goal was great. After beating Andersen and drawing a hook, he picked out a nice pass to Kempe back door.
He then got on the board himself, finishing a nice passing play from the Kings' power play. He's found a nice role on the power play in the bumper position, scoring a few goals from there on this trip. It's easy to forget he's a three-time 30-goal scorer, but goals like that are a nice reminder.
He picked up a secondary assist on Kempe's second goal to cap off a three-point night.
The only area he struggled was in the faceoff dot.
Normally reliable in this department, winning 57% of his faceoffs on the night. Kopitar won just 26.1% of his faceoffs Tuesday night. Jordan Staal caused serious problems for Kopitar, and the whole Kings team, winning 72.7% of his faceoffs.
Carolina is a team that likes to dominate possession, so starting the majority of shifts without the puck is a problem.
Still, it was an overall good night for the Kings' captain.
– Pheonix Copley
It wasn't a terrible night from Pheonix Copley, but it did follow a trend for Kings goalies. He didn't give up many terrible goals, but also didn't have any big-time saves at opportune times.
Like the penalty kill, the importance of big saves at the right time has been a huge talking point surrounding the Kings this season and Copley couldn't provide that.
You'd also like to see better rebound control on Paul Stastny's goal and Teravainen's goal was stoppable.
Statistically, it wasn't a great game from Copley either. He finished with five goals against, an .833 save percentage and -1.37 goals saved above expected.
I've criticized Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen too many times this season to give Copley a pass Tuesday. Sometimes you need your goalie to bail you out with a big save or two, as Copley did against the Florida Panthers two games ago, but he didn't on Carolina.
For that reason, he gets a minus.