Here are the top few paragraphs of my game story:
Tanner Pearson chipped the icicles off his hockey stick Thursday at Staples Center. The rookie left wing ended an 11-game goal-scoring drought with a deft swat of the puck that propelled the Kings to a grinding 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
So great was Pearson’s slump that he went from playing on the Kings’ most effective line, to sitting on the bench and watching for extended stretches, to nearly sitting in the press box and eating popcorn by the fistful as his teammates faced the Hurricanes.
It’s often that way with gifted young players, with their production ebbing and flowing. Kings coach Darryl Sutter hinted that a night in the rafters might not be such a bad thing, although he didn’t mention the 22-year-old Pearson by name.
Sutter didn’t pull the trigger Thursday, but Pearson did. Pearson’s goal gave the Kings a 3-2 lead only minutes into the second period and they held it the rest of the way against the Hurricanes. The Kings’ victory was their third in a row after a two-game losing streak.
Here are three things about the Kings’ latest victory:
First, Pearson’s slumps will be fewer and farer (is that a word?) between as he matures and gains experience. He was doing all the right things of late, but the puck wasn’t going into the net for him. He solved it by charging to the net and smacking a loose puck into it. Smart play by a gifted player who realizes that not all the goals are going to be masterpieces.Gritty goals count just as much as pretty ones.
Second, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty played 25:10 against Carolina, ending his streak of 30-minute games at four in a row. Injuries and the suspension to Slava Voynov have wreaked havoc with Sutter’s defense pairs and Doughty has been overplayed to the extreme at times. Sutter has acknowledged the disservice it’s done to Doughty and to the Kings. But what else can he do? Voynov won’t be back any time soon after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday it would charge Voynov in a domestic violence case. Alec Martinez is expected back within a week or so after undergoing minor surgery on a finger. But the numbers are thin for Sutter, so expect Doughty to keep playing big minutes.
Third, the Kings’ power play, once a hindrance, is now a help. The Kings went 1 for 3 with the man advantage against the Hurricanes, which came one game after they clicked on 3 of 6 chances Tuesday against the Florida Panthers and two games after they were 2 of 3 on Saturday against the Ducks. The Kings went through a 1-for-27 slump over nine games and it appeared their power play was a lost cause. But that’s no longer the case if recent games are an indication. That’s a very big deal for a team that often struggles to score while skating 5 on 5.