Jake Muzzin’s daring dash to score the first goal in Game 6 vs. the Ducks, May 14: The Ducks won three consecutive games after dropping the first two in the first playoff series between the Southern California rivals at the Honda Center. Muzzin’s goal midway through the first period, set the Kings back on a winning course. Their defense and goaltending enabled them to tie the series at 3-all with a 2-1 win.
By now you probably know that Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown scored to give the Kings a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period as they roared to a 5-2 victory Monday over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. Muzzin and Brown scored on the power play.
What you might not know is that the Kings’ power play improved to 16 for 56 (28.6 percent) over the last 16 playoff games, dating to Game 3 of their first-round victory over the San Jose Sharks. The Kings’ power play clicked at a meager 15.1 percent during the regular season, 27th-best in the NHL.
“We’re trying to simplify it a little bit,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said of the rejuvenated power play. “We’re just trying to get pucks up to the D-men, trying to get shots that way. My mentality on the first one, just kind of get a shot off, a one-timer, no matter what it was. If it hits the guy, it hits the guy. Just want to get that in their heads, that we’re going to be shooting pucks. The more you shoot, the more other things open up. We took advantage of those things.”
The Kings continued their superb play with a 6-0 beatdown of the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Six different players scored for the Kings (20-7-4) and rookie goaltender Martin Jones recorded his second consecutive shutout in only his third NHL game. So, far Jones is 3-0-0, having given up only two goals in a 3-2 shootout win over the Ducks. The Kings’ power play finally clicked, ending a streak of eight-plus games without a man-advantage goal. Montreal was dominant in the first period, but couldn’t crack Jones and was well-beaten by night’s end.
Here are three things about the game:
Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin seem like a defense pairing built to last, a union of two offensive threats. Or is it?
“Evaluate it every game,” coach Darryl Sutter said Friday, the day before the Kings played host to the New York Islanders at Staples Center. “Quite honest, when we went into Anaheim the other day, the last time Jake played in Anaheim, he was (poor), so don’t think I didn’t talk to him about it. Because you’re evaluated at the end of every game. Because at the end of the day … we’re not that far from Jake Muzzin being a healthy scratch. Not that far removed. He’s a young guy and we’re looking for consistency.”
Right wing Justin Williams talked about it after the Kings’ 5-2 victory Saturday over the Dallas Stars at Staples Center. Defenseman Jake Muzzin addressed it, too. So did defenseman Drew Doughty after he scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the Kings’ fifth victory in their last six games. None of the three needed prompting.
If all goes as expected, and that’s a big if when it comes to coach Darryl Sutter’s lineups, then the Kings will have a different look for Wednesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators. Left wing Daniel Carcillo skated with center Mike Richards and right wing Jeff Carter on the Kings’ second line Tuesday in practice and during Wednesday’s morning skate. Left wing Dwight King appeared to be out of the lineup, as did defenseman Jake Muzzin. Carcillo was scratched for each of the Kings’ first three games.
For the Senators, team captain Jason Spezza was ruled out of the lineup because of a groin injury. Spezza said he wanted to play against the Kings, but the coaching staff and the club’s medical staff overruled him. “We don’t want this groin injury to become a problem,” Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. The Senators play the Kings on Wednesday, the San Jose Sharks on Saturday and the Ducks on Sunday before facing the Phoenix Coyotes in the last of six straight road games to start the season.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he is concerned about the lackluster play of defenseman Jake Muzzin, who scored their only goal in a 3-1 loss Monday to the New York Rangers. Muzzin did not have a good game controlling the puck or keeping opposing stickhandlers out of threatening positions, however. He also had plenty of turnovers, which prompted a reporter to bring up Muzzin’s poor play after Tuesday’s practice.
The Kings’ roster stood at 31 names as of Wednesday afternoon, and there aren’t likely to be any surprises when they take the ice for their season-opening game Oct. 3 against the Minnesota Wild at St. Paul, Minn. In fact, the Kings’ lineup for Tuesday’s 2-1 exhibition victory over the visiting Ducks was about what you might expect to see next week.
It’s hard to describe a player with seven goals and nine assists and a team-leading plus-minus defensive rating of plus-16 in 45 games last season as a prospect. But it’s important to remember that Jake Muzzin would have spent last season with the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs of the AHL if Willie Mitchell (knee) hadn’t missed all of 2012-13 and Matt Greene (back) hadn’t sat out all but five games.
Jake Muzzin most likely would have spent the lockout-shortened NHL season in the minor leagues, but he got a promotion because of injuries to Kings defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. Muzzin made the most of his chance and earned a new two-year, $2-million contract. Muzzin and the Kings agreed to a new deal Friday morning, keeping the team’s defense corps nearly intact for next season.