It’s the Los Angeles Kings versus the New Jersey Devils live from the Prudential Center. On Sunday the sports world had the Super Bowl. Maybe this one should be called the Jack Hughes Bowl or the Kaapo Kakko Bowl. It doesn’t seem that long ago that these two teams were battling for the Stanley Cup. Now they occupy the 29th and 30th spots in the league standings.
The Kings are coming off an emotional victory in the Big Apple. Most of us were disheartened when Adam McQuaid sneaked one in from the blueline to push the Rangers to a lead late in the third period. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I’m not sure why we would ever think the Kings wouldn’t emerge with a win. After all, Hank Lundqvist was backstopping the Rangers. Simply, he cannot beat the Kings in a tight game. How many one-goal and overtime games has he dropped to Los Angeles since the 2014 Stanley Cup Final? A LOT, that’s how many. Seeing Hank skulk away in defeat to the Kings is always the best part of any season.
Tonight, Ilya Kovalchuk returns to New Jersey to face his former team for the first since he bolted for the KHL following the 2012-13 season (and leaving $77-million of his 17-year, $102-million contract uncollected in the process). The fans have been bitter since, and will surely voice it tonight.
Kovy: “It’s always good to go back and play against your former team. I’m pretty sure it’ll be a lot of booing. But I loved it…” On booing: “That’s the fans opinion. It’s a free country. Everybody can do whatever they want. I’m just a hockey player…”
— lisa dillman (@reallisa) February 5, 2019
00:00—Kovalchuk starts on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. He’s greeted to a mediocre round of boos. You can’t expect much from a building 40 per cent filled. Jim and Alex tell us that Kovalchuk certainly earned the promotion to the top line after last night.
00:45—Kovalchuk back to the third line, skating out out to the left of Adrian Kempe and Carl Hagelin. Jim tells us that he appreciates Willie Desjardins letting the fans and Kovalchuk get the booing out of their system. The way our announcers speak of Willie D. game after game, you would think he was clearing space for his upcoming Jack Adams trophy.
Kings 1. Devils 0.
06:21—Kempe takes the feed from Hagelin off the turnover and promptly buries it.
Last year, Kempe had the second highest per 60 point total on the Kings. Looks like he’s gaining his form 52 games into this campaign.
17:01—Teamwork makes the dream work:
19:15—Brown inexplicably misses the empty net from the side of the crease, whiffing like most of us do on the driving range.
End of Period.
Strong start for the Kings and they even killed a penalty. Jack Campbell looks resilient between the pipes. The first frame of the Jack Hughes Bowl belongs to the Devils as they look to solidify 30th place in the NHL.
Shots: Kings 10. Devils 8.
00:13—Derek Forbort gets his hand caught in the cookie jar holding the stick of Damon Severson. Forbort seldom looks good on the second night of a back-to-back. It’s a shame I have to scream this to the interim coach from my keyboard and his doesn’t already know it.
02:13—Kings kill another penalty. We could get used to this.
Kings 1. Devils 1.
03:31—Pavel Zacha takes a no-look backhanded pass from behind the net via Jesper Bratt. He beats Campbell with Forbort in No Mans Land (not defending and not able to adjust). Not the best game of the year delivered by Forbort so far.
04:44—It only took 24 minutes of game action and an 18-minute of intermission, but the arena is mostly full. I’m glad to see those glass seats are filled now.
05:58—Kings now being outshot 16-11 in the game and starting to look heavy-legged. You know what would help? Some of those younger legs in the press box.
14:02—Blake Coleman crosschecks / high sticks / roughs / cheap shots Brown and takes a seat for two minutes. Wait. What?! Only two minutes? In this NHL, that looked like five minutes and a suspension. The zebras seldom give the Kings the benefit of the doubt. Brown down the tunnel to get checked out.
16:14—Willie D. sends out a power play unit of Mike Amadio, Kovalchuk, Kopitar, Thompson, and Alec Martinez. Not only does that spur the “Koval-SUCK” chants, but also the Kings generate exactly zero chances on that man advantage.
17:06—Austin Wagner gets called for tripping and goes on a NSFW rant that lip readers enjoyed.
17:16—PING! Kyle Palmieri rings the post. This one stays out.
17:32—Last night’s hero Tyler Toffoli scampers the other way shorthanded and draws the slash from Severson and we’ll skate 4-on-4 for a while.
18:39—Brendan Leipsic dives and draws the tripping penalty on Palmieri. We’ll skate 4-on-3 for a while.
End of Period.
Kings with a stronger second half of that period after sleepskating though the first 10 minutes. The Devils are 1-4-2 when tied after two periods while the Kings are 5-5-2. Kings with a 39 second power play to start the third.
Shots: Devils 20. Kings 17.
Kings 2. Devils 1.
00:32—Holy Toffoli! Tyler with the power play goal. Kempe and Toffoli with five of the last six Kings goals. Where have these guys been?
Kings 3. Devils 1.
01:07—Toffoli again! That’s nine points in his last 10 games and his first multi-goal game of the season. All of which is music to Rob Blake’s ears.
Kings 4. Devils 1.
01:52—The rout is on! Dion Phaneuf walks the blueline and works his voodoo magic past Keith Kincaid. Three goals in 1:20. There is absolutely NO SOUND in the Prudential Center other than sticks.
03:27—Leipsic kills the momentum with a delay of game penalty. Kid needs to learn to play with the lead.
12:05—Phaneuf with a crosscheck of his own. Kings back to the power play where they look very comfortable all of the sudden.
14:05—Kings with another penalty kill, which begs the question: where have these special teams been all year?
Kings 5. Devils 1.
17:36—Kovalchuk rewards the Devils faithful for their lusty boos:
End of Game.
Shots: Devils 30. Kings 25.
The Devils fall asleep for a couple of minutes and take the Jack Hughes Bowl, losing 5-1. The Kings now sit six points out of a playoff spot. So you’re saying there’s a chance?
Next: Thursday—The Kings battle the red-hot Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Devils are still bitter—move on already:
How is this possible?
Assuming Chicago, dominating the third in Edmonton, holds on, the Blackhawks, Oilers, Coyotes and Ducks will all be three points out of a playoff spot and not a one of ‘em is even a .500 team. The Western Conference playoff race is a strange place right now.
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) February 6, 2019