About halfway through Monday night’s game against Vancouver, the most prevalent thought among Kings fans both at Staples Center and watching from elsewhere had to be “here we go again…” Los Angeles had played very well throughout the game, even dominating the play at times, but yet again found themselves down 2-0 in the late stages of the second period, unable to solve a familar foe in Roberto Luongo.
It was one of those games where the Kings were getting their chances, but weren’t getting any bounces; Jarret Stoll gets an incredible look in the slot on the power play and shoots it right into a sprawling Luongo. Jonathan Quick makes a few of his trademark big stops, but then loses sight of the puck behind the net allowing Alex Burrows an easy wrap-around goal. It was evident the Kings were playing well overall, yet they seemed snake bitten and it was beginning to look like they were going to come out empty-handed yet again.
Until the unthinkable happened.
The Kings scored a power play goal. Jeff Carter’s tally with under five remaining in the second finally got LA and the Staples Center crowd something to get excited about, and put a dagger into the streak of utter futility the Kings were riding with the man advantage. Well they are still pretty futile, sitting 1 for 27 on the year but that’s still better than 0 for 27.
The Kings were now within striking distance, and Quick and the defense kept them there until Slava Voynov played the hero tying the game up with 44 seconds remaining in the game. Jeff Carter continued to carry the team during bonus hockey by scoring the only goal in the shootout, and the Kings earned themselves a huge two points when just about everyone was expecting zero.
It was a victory that showed an incredible amount of character from the black and white, as they truly never stopped coming at Vancouver, even when they were getting nothing to show for it. Now the Kings who are carrying an extra load of confidence and a two-game winning streak welcome a struggling Nashville Predators team, one that much like the Kings, are still searching to regain their clout in the West as they had a year ago.
The Predators (1-2-3), will be just as desperate to get points as the Kings were a week ago, and its not like they haven’t been dangerous thus far, as three of their five losses have been in overtime. Monster defensemen Shea Weber has had a rough time acclimating to life without Ryan Suter, as he has yet to register a point this year. However convention would tell you that a streak like that is nothing more than an anomoly, and that the Kings had better keep an eye out for number 6 if they want to continue their winning ways on Thursday night.
The key for Los Angeles is to maintain the hunger and sense of urgency that has helped them finally put some wins on the board. It would be too easy for them to see that Nashville is sitting below them in the standings and let an air of complacency creep into their game. Instead, the Kings need to continue to improve as they have each of their last few games and realize that their opponent is fighting to stay afloat in the Western Conference and will bring their best effort.
The Kings have a huge opportunity on Thursday night to build on the momentum they established with their impressive win against the Canucks. It remains to be seen if they are able to keep the train moving in the right direction, or if the Predators can put up a roadblock on the route heading back to the playoffs.