There wasn't much more the Anaheim Ducks could have done on Monday night. They peppered Jonathan Quick with shots. They controlled the possession game, hemming the Kings in their own zone for long stretches. They won the physical battle while setting up Los Angeles blueliner Drew Doughty for a lengthy postgame session with the trainer.
They did everything they wanted to do against the Kings. Except win as Quick stopped 36 shots while leading L.A. to a 3-1 victory and a commanding two games to none lead in their best-of-seven series.
This was the Kings at their most maddening, led by the imperturbable netminder and a resolute defense that took away time and space in a textbook-worthy performance. It earned them their sixth consecutive win in these playoffs and sets up a pivotal Game 3 on Thursday night at Staples Center.
Here are some observations from Monday night's contest:
• There are goals and then there are big goals, and the Kings' Marian Gaborik completed a hat trick's worth in just under 13 minutes of playing time. He followed up his dramatic game-tying and overtime goals on Saturday night with a dazzling opener just 34 seconds into Game 2. Anze Kopitar fed the streaking winger in the neutral zone, allowing him to catch the Ducks' Ben Lovejoy flatfooted as he entered the zone with speed. Gaborik dashed around the hapless defender and beat Jonas Hiller high on the short side, silencing the Honda Center crowd.
Gaborik had another primo chance later in the period, driving through the crease after a feed from the corner and forcing Hiller to make his best of his 14 saves on the night. The sniper didn't see much ice after that (just 13:46 total, seventh among Kings forwards), but he'd already made his mark on the game...and on these playoffs. During the regular season the Kings averaged just 2.42 goals per game, 26th in the league. They're third at 3.56 during the postseason, with Gaborik's league-leading six goals pacing the effort.
• Each big moment by Gaborik diminishes the likelihood that the Kings will be able to afford to re-sign the pending UFA this summer, but they reinforce the genius of GM Dean Lombardi for taking a chance on the veteran forward. It's also a stark reminder that Anaheim GM Bob Murray chose not to mortgage his future to bring in some secondary scoring at the deadline. That failure could end up costing his team this series.
• If the Kings want to clear some cap space, they might consider buying out Mike Richards. The veteran center has been a shadow of his former self in the playoffs and had another lousy game tonight, on the ice for just two shot attempts by the Kings despite skating 24 shifts. Maybe he's playing through an injury, but the larger concern is that he's simply worn down by years of heavy action.
• It's almost impossible to reconcile the Quick who had a GAA approaching six after the first three games of the San Jose series with the one who is frustrating the Ducks now. Tonight was classic Quick, all controlled aggression. He made his best stop of the night shortly after Gaborik gave L.A. the lead, stacking the pads to deny Devante Smith-Pelly from the low slot after the Anaheim forward pounced on a bad bounce off a stanchion. It was more than a save, though. It was a statement, and while he was beaten later in the period on another bounce--a Patrick Maroon shot deflected off the left skate of Jake Muzzin and in--it was clear he wasn't giving the Kings a sniff tonight.
After Alex Martinez made it 2-1 later in the period, he protected the one-goal lead for 46 minutes until Dwight King sealed the deal with an empty netter in the final minute.
Quick got a ton of help from his defense, who limited the Ducks to just two second-chance shots the entire game but give him full marks for another disciplined and confident performance that clearly worked its way into the heads of the Ducks.
He's now allowed just eight goals over the course of this six-game winning streak, a number that should have Anaheim, and the rest of the league, very concerned.
• Corey Perry's standard stats for the series are miserable--no points and a minus-2. But his jerk quotient is through the roof, and that's one positive element the Ducks can build on.
Say what you like about Perry--and many of you do--but you can't ask for any more than what he's given so far in this series. He's battling ferociously for space within bad breath distance of Quick. He's getting pucks on net (a game-high five Monday in L.A.). He's drawing penalties (two more tonight). He's discreetly working in his cheap shots where he can (amazing how often he loses his footing and falls on top of Quick).
And then there are inimitable moments like this:
If he keeps it up he'll get what's coming to him in this series: a couple of greasy goals and a Sher-Wood sandwich.
• As nice as this win was, the Kings will have to raise their game if they're going to meet the desperation of the Ducks on Thursday. L.A. landed just nine shots on net over the final 40 minutes, seemingly content to lay back and let their hosts blast away in frustration. Hiller looked ripe to be exploited early on but they let him off the hook--and allowed the Ducks to hang around--with their soft offensive effort. As good as Quick has been, that's a recipe for disaster.
• The Kings already are down two regular defenders and it looked for a moment there like they might lose a third. Doughty barely managed to get off the ice under his own power after taking a nasty slash to the back of the knee from Francois Beauchemin. No question he's being targeted for special treatment in this series, and you can't blame the Ducks for trying anything to limit his effectiveness. If there's one area where Anaheim is clearly inferior to the Kings its their lack of a true No. 1 defender. Doughty has played 60 minutes of ferocious D over the first two games, so going the "any means necessary" is the only way the Ducks can minimize that advantage.
The Ducks and Kings will meet in Game 3 on Thursday night in Los Angeles at 10 p.m. ET (NBCSN, TSN, RDS) Complete NHL Playoffs schedule