Mike Richards scored the go-ahead goal in the Kings’ 2-1 victory over the Ducks on Saturday night, a flawless laser that eluded goaltender Viktor Fasth for a power-play strike late in the second period. It hardly surprised Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who has seen what Richards can do when the games get more meaningful at this time of the season.
“Well, I think he has gotten stronger for sure,” Sutter said of Richards’ play of late. “And, as is typical with Mike, the bigger it gets, the better he plays. I think it’s on record that he had a tough start and he’s certainly played well lately. We need those centermen to complement each other, that was one of the real strengths of our team last year.”
Late-night reading …
It was a goaltenders’ duel at times, a test of wills at others, and frequently a bone-jarring matchup of teams looking ahead to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Mostly, though, it was a game in which a bounce here and a deflection there determined the outcome.
The Kings squeezed past the Ducks 2-1 by the barest of margins, with Mike Richards slotting a perfectly-placed shot into the back of the net for the decisive goal late in the second period Saturday night at Staples Center.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter had this to say when asked if Dustin Penner’s return from injured reserve Tuesday against the Dallas Stars was helping to aid the play of linemates Jeff Carter and Mike Richards: “We’re trying to keep those top two lines (Carter-Richards-Penner and Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams) consistent and that means Dustin, Mike and Jeff have to complement each other. I don’t think it’s so much getting them going. Carter is fighting for the Rocket Richard (trophy), so I don’t think it’s about getting him going. I think Mike is a guy that plays better down the stretch. We’ve seen that, and that’s what he’s known for. So, it’s more Dustin that has to get going.”
Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco gave rookie goaltender Sami Aittokallio his first start Thursday night. All he had to do was face the defending Stanley Cup champions two nights after they stunk it up in the third period of a 5-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. The Avs didn’t make it easy on the 20-year-old Finn, giving up two early goals and hardly showing up after they played exceptionally well in defeating the Ducks on Wednesday. Jeff Carter (power play) and Mike Richards scored for the Kings, who outshot Colorado 15-4 in the period. Jonathan Quick hardly had to break a sweat in the opening 20 minutes.
Here’s the recap from The Associated Press:
Mike Ricahrds scored the go-ahead goal with 2:43 to play, Jonathan Quick made 20 saves and the Kings continued their dominance of St. Louis with a 4-2 win over the Blues on Thursday night in St. Louis. Dustin Brown had a goal and an assist and Trevor Lewis and Justin Williams also scored for the Kings.
The Kings could move into fourth place in the Western Conference standings with a victory Monday over the Calgary Flames at Staples Center. Actually, they could have the third-most points but they could be no higher than fourth because the top teams in each division automatically get the three top spots for playoff seeding purposes. As for the Flames, well, their season was up for grabs but they didn’t play with much sense of desperation. There was no scoring in the second period, but Dustin Penner had two glorious chances to extend the Kings’ advantage. He failed to click after Mike Richards sent a cross-ice pass to him on the rush. He also missed an open net after Jeff Carter set him up a little later in the middle period.
The Kings didn’t want a repeat of Sunday’s first period against the Chicago Blackhawks, when they simply couldn’t keep up and fell behind by two goals. The Edmonton Oilers certainly were every bit as fast Tuesday as the Blackhawks. The difference was that the Kings didn’t give up a goal and went to the second period in a scoreless draw. “We kept them off the board, but they still got good looks,” Kings forward Mike Richards said of the Oilers during a between-periods TV interview. ”We know they have good speed. … We have to score one here on the power play.” The Kings opened the second period with 44 seconds remaining on a man-advantage that carried over from the first.
The No. 1 takeaway, which also is a giveaway, from Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks is that the Kings’ lack of offensive punch continues to be their No. 1 shortcoming. The Kings have scored 30 goals in 13 games, the fewest in the NHL as of Monday morning. They scored only two goals in three of their last four games and won two and lost two. This was a problem last season, too, before they began their remarkable run to the Stanley Cup. Mike Richards scored twice on the power play in the third period Sunday, doubling his total for the season. But the Kings simply need more goals and from more players if they are to repeat their playoff surge of last season. In fact, they’re going to have to score a lot more just to qualify for the postseason.
The Kings and the Nashville Predators were tied 1-1 after the first period Thursday night at Staples Center. The threat of a game-deciding shootout hangs over every close game, including one played by two teams who aren’t commited to a wide-open style.
With that in mind, reporters asked forward Mike Richards for some of his tips on doing well in what’s become an increasingly important part of the game. Here’s what Richards had to say about his game plan during shootouts:
“I’m not one of those guys who has a lot of moves. I have a couple of things that seem to work, but I don’t want to psych myself out where I think the goaltender knows what I’m going to do and maybe try something creative or different just because of that.
“The best players around the league do the same move over and over again. No (he doesn’t try anything too fancy), I’d fall on my (rear end). I don’t think I’ve ever done a spin-a-rama on the ice on purpose. We practice it a couple of times in practices. For me, I don’t have a whole of options. Points are so valuable now, I don’t know it’s a playground out there where you could pull it off. A guy like Datsyuk or Patrick Kane, even though they’re using it as a playground, they call pull these moves off. Whereas the success rate of me trying something is not great, so the points are so valuable you don’t want to go out there and try something new and cost your team a win.
The Kings and Coyotes played six times last season. Three of the games were decided by one goal; two were decided by two goals; and the other time the Kings decided not to play defense and lost 6-3.
True to their nature –even in the preseason, with rosters full of players who will spend this season in the AHL, ECHL or Canadian junior leagues –the Kings and Coyotes played a pair of one-goal games Thursday. The Coyotes squad that hosted the Kings in Glendale, Arizona, lost 3-2. The Coyotes squad that played in Anaheim a day earlier visited Staples Center and pulled out a 2-1 shootout win.
In Glendale [game summary | event summary], Dustin Penner scored with 49 seconds left in regulation to break a 2-2 tie. Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist, Trevor Lewis had three assists, and Ethan Moreau scored in the first period –chronologically, the Kings’ first goal of the preseason.
Jonathan Bernier started and saved 18 of 19 shots in two periods. Jeff Zatkoff got the third period and stopped 8 of 9.
At Staples Center, the vantage point of the press box offered a few more insights: