Much like the upcoming Super Bowl in a few days, the hockey game in LA featured a top offense versus the league's top defense. Round 1 went to the offense, as the Pittsburgh Penguins roared out the gates early in the first period and eventually chased goalie Jonathan Quick in route to a 4-1 victory in Los Angeles.
For the Pens, it was a chance for a game to see where they matched up against one of the league's top teams and, as far as goals against goes, the best defensive team in the league. The Kings have been struggling to produce offense, a trend that continued for another night, but a credit for the Pens to play alert and astute defense.
The scoring started early: Jussi Jokinen threw a beautiful cross-crease pass to a wide open Evgeni Malkin, who somehow found himself all alone with Quick pulled out of the net. He's not going to miss from there, 1-0 Pens.
Anze Kopitar scored on the power play to tie the game. Midway through the first period, the rout would be on. Malkin drew two penalties on the same play, a rarity in the league these days but hooked and slashed at the time, to put the Pens on a 5 on 3 advantage. Chris Kunitz would score on the two-man advantage and then Jokinen potted another while still on the power play. Just like that, it was 3-1, which for a team like the Kings with scoring problems, it might as well have been 300-1.
Halfway through the second period, Tanner Glass potted a beautiful backhand goal for the final goal of the game. The Kings outshot the Pens 14-3 in the third, but couldn't crack Jeff Zatkoff and the Pens skated off with the win.
A few more thoughts from the game:
- 30 saves on 31 shots for Zatkoff, playing his first game against the organization where he started his NHL career. Has to be one of his finest moments so far, kudos to him for playing so well.
- As mentioned above, the Pens quick-strike powerplay really put the game out of reach and Malkin and Jokinen were on fire tonight and demonstrated some great chemistry that resulted with putting the puck in the net. Not that there was any doubt, but Jokinen's been a great fit on what had been a revolving door position on Malkin's left-wing.
- No Kris Letang (missed the game due to an illness), no problem, at least tonight. Robert Bortuzzo got into the game for the first time in a while, and made his impact felt early, stepping up in the neutral zone and making a hit just seconds into the game to help set the tone for the Pens.
- How sweet was that goal by Glass? A nice backhand move that wouldn't have been out of place if the guy wearing the #87 jersey had done it.
- The Pens ice-time leader tonight? Matt Niskanen with just 20:48 played (3rd star of the game with 2 assists, 4 hits and a blocked shot). Nisky's charmed season continues.
- Tough night in the face-off circle for Malkin (25% in 12 draws) and Brandon Sutter (29% on 17 face-offs), but Sidney Crosby (60% on 20) had a better night there.
- The Kings look like they're struggling to find that next offensive gear, but when they get that figured out, will no doubt be a dangerous team to deal with in the playoffs.
And with that, the Pens go on to the desert, to continue the "Moms' trip" and hopefully end it with as good of a result as they earned on this night.