*(Featured Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Well…at least this time the game was a close one. Back in November, the dominating Tampa Bay Lightning steamrolled over the Los Angeles Kings 5-2. This time, though the Lightning still won and there were moments in last night’s game when it looked like the Bolts were going to flattening the Kings once again, but the Kings were able to mount a comeback in the 3rd period, scored two goals to make it a one goal game by barraging the Lightning’s net with full force, but it wasn’t to be. As Tampa had an ace up their hockey jersey’s sleeves, and that was stud goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, (and darn it, the league should have awarded him the Vezina Trophy right there and then, just for those last 2 or 3 minutes of this game alone! Yes, he’s that good), who made sure that the Lightning won this game in the end, 4-3. Still, the fact that the Kings were able to battle back and make this a one goal game, against THE top team in the NHL is encouraging, which is something that many in the NHL have not been successful at doing.
(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

This was the second game of a congested seven game, eastern road trip for the Kings. Game one was a strong and full team effort by the boys against the Florida Panthers in a 3-1 victory, but the Kings had to immediately put that aside to play Tampa less then 24 hours later for a back to back.
(The legendary Vincent LeCavalier – Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Before the game started, the Tampa organization added a touch of class as their legend, and former LA King Vincent Lecavalier was being honored with his number #4 jersey being retired and commemorated with a banner that was raised into the rafters. I found it touching that Tampa Bay and Lecavalier decided to wait until the Kings were playing in Tampa, so the Kings’ and their fans could be there to witness and share in the celebration. Though ‘Vinny” only played 42 regular season games (with 10 goals, 17 assists, 27 points and 51% in the face-off dot), and 5 playoff games (with a goal and an assist, plus a 60.1% in face-offs), with the Kings during the second half of the 2015-16 season, playing in LA gave Lecavalier a second chance to end his career the right way. Especially after the miserable two and a half years of being underused, ignored and healthy scratched that he spent in Philadelphia with the Flyers. Lecavalier was already past his prime by the time he got to Los Angeles, (like with Jarome Iginla, Vinny was one of those players that I always wished had played with the Kings), his experience, leadership, positive attitude and hard work ethic (and the fact he retired his hall of fame worthy career in LA), did help the Kings immensely. It was just a shame that he decided to not play one more year. It’s even a bigger shame that his very last career game ever played, was a playoff series loss against San Jose.

But as I mentioned before, he is Hall of Fame worthy and should be eligible to be voted into the Hall sometime after the end of the 2018-19 season. He achieved 1,212 regular season games played, 421 goals, 528 assists, 949 points, 127 power-play goals, 63 game-winning goals, plus another 26 goals, 30 assists and 56 points in 75 playoff games. In 2004 Lecavalier won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay and the World Cup of Hockey with Team Canada, earning his place alongside players such as current Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman (2002), Wayne Gretzky (1984, 1987), Mark Messier (1984, 1987), Guy Lafleur (1976), Larry Robinson (1976), Adam Deadmarsh (1996), Brendan Shanahan (2002), Jonathan Toews (2010), Sidney Crosby (2016), Drew Doughty (2014), Jeff Carter (2014) and his 2004 teammates Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards, plus others, to have won both the Stanley Cup AND a ‘Best on Best’ international tournament with his country, (Canada Cup/World Cup of Hockey/Winter Olympic Gold Medal when the NHL participates). Congratulations on your number being retired ‘Vinny’. Next step, your entrance into a very well known building in Toronto, Canada on Yonge street.

Now back to the game. It was announced a bit before the game started that Trevor Lewis was leaving the road trip, and flying back to LA to be checked out by the Kings’ doctors. Here’s to hoping that he is okay after that nasty fall he took in the Florida game. (We miss you Lewie!) This meant Marian Gaborik was back in and was placed in the third line (aka Lewis’ line) with Torrey Mitchell and Kyle Clifford. As expected, the red-hot Darcy Keumper was between the pipes for this game after Jonathan Quick played the previous night.
Everything seemed in place for the Kings, well that is until the game started and superstar Steven Stamkos scored a strange one of the hop at 1:05. Dustin Brown and his teammates struggled to clear their defensive zone when the loose puck was picked up by Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde. They fed Stamkos, who was to the wide right side of Kuemper, but ‘Stammer’ found a way to blast/squeeze that puck past Darcy, all from that tight angle to make it 1-0 Tampa.
Shortly after, the Kings were able to tie things up at 5:02 after a beautiful 3 on 2, tic-tac-toe passing play and attack that ended with Jonny Brodzinski (or is it Jonny ‘Broadway?’ – credit to Larry Jensen) one-timing the puck in for his 4th of the season, and second in straight games. The play started from the attacking 3 on 2 with ‘Brodzi’ passing the puck to Andy Andreoff, who did a give and go with Nick Shore, before ‘Double-A’ (not Arn Anderson), made a beauty of a pass to the wide-open Brodzinski, who made no mistake with it. 1-1 tie. (After being initially upset that coach John Stevens chose Shore over Mike Amadio before the Florida game, I have to admit that this line of Andreoff – Shore – and Brodzinski is the best line that the Kings have going for them right now. They are on fire!)
Brodzinski(4) – ASST: Andreoff(4), Shore(10): https://t.co/yETQEjMyE8#LAKings #GoKingsGo #GoBolts #LAKvsTBL pic.twitter.com/OZ89zu5yHc
Eric (@Kingsgifs) February 11, 2018
This is when things started to get crazy. Tampa’s Alex Killorn took a holding penalty to put the Kings on the power-play. On that power-play, the Kings were attacking hard and with everything they had, but Vasilevskiy was having no part of it. In a “I couldn’t it believe my own eyes” moment, (unless of course it was a save made by the Jedi Master Jonathan Quick), Vasilevskiy completely robbed Kopitar, when ‘Kopi’ seemed to have an open net to shoot at during his rush, but Vasilevskiy twisted his glove hand behind his back to catch the puck in time and make the save. Wow.
Vasilevskiy behind the back glove save on Kopitar: https://t.co/92hQk72Son#LAKings #GoKingsGo #GoBolts #LAKvsTBL pic.twitter.com/lQnaOpEjyX
Eric (@Kingsgifs) February 11, 2018
That must have been a warning sign from the Hockey Gods, as right after that power-play ended, Stamkos spotted Killorn coming out of the penalty box and rifled a pass right to him, catching the Kings’ ‘D’ off guard, and giving Killorn the breakaway. With it, Killorn was able to wrist it past Kuemper for his 9th goal of the season and make it 2-1 Tampa. (The goal wasn’t Kuemper’s fault. That blame should go to Kings’ defense who knew the penalty was ending and they should have had someone keep an eye on Killorn. A breakaway is a 50/50 play between the shooter and the goalie, so what can you?)
The Lightning was all over the Kings in the second period. At 3:12 the Bolts took a 3-1 lead after the Kings failed again to clear their defensive zone. Tampa’s Cedric Paquette picked up the puck from Ryan Callahan, took a shot which was saved by Kuemper, but the puck slid behind the net and Kuemper’s body followed to face it. Paquette picked it up again and banked it off of Kuemper and into the net for the goal, (sigh).
Stevens decided he had seen enough and decided to pull Kuemper out in favor of Jonathan Quick. (I feel that Kuemper didn’t have a terrible game, but he did have a lot of poor puck luck go against him. It happens. Stamkos’ goal was a strange one from a wide angle, as Kuemper did have the net covered, but the two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winning goal scorer was able to find a tiny little hole to score, when most players would not. The second goal was a breakaway, and this third goal was just a fluke. 9 times out of 10, it wouldn’t have gone in the net, but what can you do? I also wasn’t upset (as many on Twitter were) that Kuemper got pulled. Sometimes a coach has to do something to send a message to the rest of the team and get some kind of spark out of them, and to be fair, it worked. But not until the 3rd period, but more on that later). Kuemper finished the game with 11 saves out of 14 and a .786 save %. Though a lot of what happened wasn’t his fault, statistically, this was his worst performance as a King thus far.
The game then started to get nasty as the game got more tense and aggressive. Quick got into some battles in the crease with Cory Conacher, (who is a distant relative of the Toronto Maple Leaf Legend Charlie Conacher, but isn’t related to former LA King and Edmonton Oiler Pat Conacher), when Quick felt Conacher had pushed Alec Martinez on top of him, so Quick decided to single leg takedown Conacher to start a brawl. (Anyone else here thinks that Quick has some sick Freestyle Wrestling takedown moves in his arsenal? If he wasn’t a superstar goaltender in the NHL, maybe he would have made the UFC???) Both Quick and Conacher were called for roughing penalties.
Gaborik finally decided to show up and do something in this game but unfortunately, it was by hooking defenseman Mikhail Sergachyov for a penalty. Luckily the Kings were able to kill that off. Later at 12:28, the struggling (without Jeff Carter maybe?) Tyler Toffoli took a bad penalty after cross-checking Gourde in the head. (I’m not sure how the Kings expect to come back and win games by playing undisciplined hockey and spending so much time shorthanded while sitting in the penalty box? I know they are great on the penalty kill but why risk it all the time?) Luckily, the Kings were able to kill that one off too, but shortly after Dustin Brown collided with Sergachyov with a knee on knee and was rewarded for it with a 5 minute major and a game misconduct. In the replay, it looked like Brown was going for ‘Sergi’s’ chest with his shoulder, but ‘Sergi’ avoided it by maneuvering away from Brown but their knees still connected. It will be interesting to see if former King (but mostly a Duck) George Parros and the NHL take a further look into this hit? Brown recently was reviewed after an incident in a game against Pittsburgh and didn’t receive punishment, but he may not be so lucky this time. Here’s to hoping for the best.
Within the opening seconds of the 5-minute major power-play, current NHL leader in points, Nikita Kucherov scored his 29th of the season to make it 4-1 Tampa. The Kings were able to kill the rest of the 5-minute major and this was the only goal that Quick had let in for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, it would also be turned out to be the game-winning goal for the Bolts, therefore giving Quick the undeserved loss, even though he played great by finishing the game with 13 saves out of 14, and had a strong .929 save %. (Considering that 3 goals went past Kuemper and he finished with a .786 save %, sometimes playing with numbers isn’t fun).
Then came the third period, and the Kings weren’t going to knock down without a fight. And fight they did with a completely dominating performance that had the mighty Lightning on their heels. At 3:17, Kyle Clifford was able to deflect a shot from Captain ‘Kopi” for his 3rd of the season, to cut Tampa’s lead in half.
Then at 13:05, Christian Folin‘s point shot went in after being deflected by a Tampa player (or players) for his 3rd of the season to make it a one-goal game. (Puck luck can go both ways baby!)
Then the Kings went into FULL ATTACK MODE and bombarded the Tampa net as if their (playoff) lives depended on it after pulling Quick for an extra attacker, but that pesky*Vasilevskiy was robbing them blind at every turn like he was some kind of Sith Lord or something? Kind of like in this video, but picture Vasilevskiy as Darth Vader, (spoiler alert if you haven’t watched Rouge One: A Star Wars Story (2016),

Okay, maybe that was a slight over exaggeration, as the Kings never retreated from their attack, and in fact they attacked right up to the very last second, (like literally, as*Vasilevskiy robbed Drew Doughty at the very last second of the game).
Vasilevskiy stops Doughty in the final second: https://t.co/FfPF3a7HNr#LAKings #GoKingsGo #GoBolts #LAKvsTBL pic.twitter.com/MQA3xFDiHO
Eric (@Kingsgifs) February 11, 2018
He also robbed Adrian Kempe just before that too.
It just wasn’t meant to be as the game ended 4-3. Still, I was very impressed with the way the boys climbed back into this game and almost tied it up. Now imagine if the 5 minute major and a game misconduct on Brown hadn’t happened? It isn’t far-fetched to say that the Kings could have found a way to win this game. Yes, they didn’t but they did show the NHL that the mighty and powerful Bolts do indeed bleed. And if they can bleed … then anything is possible in the playoffs.
Vasilevskiy also showed that winning the Vezina Trophy might not be enough for him, as he may make a play for the Hart Trophy for league MVP as well such as goalies like Carey Price, Jose Theodore, and Dominik Hasek have before him. That kid is just that damn good. Props.
The Kings are now 1-1 on this current 7 game, eastern road trip and will be traveling to Carolina next for a game against the Justin Williams‘ led Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
So until then everyone, I am JD Stylz and now I am out of here!
GO KINGS GO!!!
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