Jim Fox: Gauthier penalty bad, Canadiens good
Editor's note: The Kings aren't televising the first two games of their current trip, so we've put FS West TV analyst Jim Fox to work. He agreed to share his thoughts and insights on today's game in Montreal and Tuesday's game in Ottawa, the city where he played junior hockey. Click here forJim's first post from today and click here for his second one. Here is installment No. 3.
MONTREAL -- We'll see if the Kings can continue to keep the big boys off the board for Montreal. In the first period, no shots for Alex Kovalev, Robert Lang, Andrei Kostitsyn.
Kovalev at his best is in my top puck handlers I have seen play live. The others are Mario Lemieux, Vincent Lecavalier, and Kent Nilsson (I had to put a Swede on the list because Oscar Moller is watching me).
I once marveled at Kovalev’s ability to handle the puck when he was with the Penguins and practicing in L.A. He just started by himself, working a figure eight drill. His hands were moving so fast and there was not even the hint of a chance that he would lose the puck. When his teammates noticed his expertise, they tried to bother him a bit. Players started shooting pucks at the stationary Kovalev, to try to get him to lose the puck. No deal. When that didn’t work, a teammate stood right beside him and started screaming at Kovalev to try and distract him. The other continued to shoot the puck at him. Still no break in the drill. When this didn’t work, another teammate started slashing the hands of Kovalev, while the screamer continued, along with the puck being shot at him. When this didn’t work, finally another teammate just tackled him. Drill over. Amazing skill. I had never seen anything like it.
First penalty of the second period, Raitis Ivanans, goaltender interference. An offensive zone penalty. The Kings must stay away from those.
A big hit by Denis Gauthier on the Canadiens' Josh Gorges right at the Kings blue line. Everything was OK until Gauthier left his feet. A big hit that momentarily stunned Gorges. I'm not sure if he’ll be back. Gauthier is gone for the game. The Kings' Peter Harrold can move back and play defense if necessary. Everything was there to finish the hit hard -- and I mean really hard -- but by leaving his feet, his elbows ended up around Gorges' head.
2-1 Montreal. A five on three. Andrei Kostitsyn with a quick shot from the middle of the slot. The Canadiens make the Kings pay for the Gauthier hit, right away. The Kings were in control until the penalties. A five-minute major may change the game momentum.
Alexander Frolov's steal leads to a breakaway and a huge save by goaltender Carey Price. Pavel Datsyuk of Detroit is the best in the league in stripping away pucks. Frolov is second best. They have both mastered this facet to the point you can now call it a skill.
The Kings' Jonathan Quick with his best save of the year, left to right, post to post, two-pad slide. I thought I was watching Billy Ranford play.
Down low both goalies are unbeatable, both butterfly styles. Price has less movement, Quick is more athletic, both are effective with a big presence....
It's the norm in Montreal for the crowd to be very quiet while play is going on. They are students and critics as much as spectators.
Montreal is known for team speed but it didn’t show in the first period, when the Kings dictated the speed. It's a different story in the second period. Montreal is much more dangerous on attack.
2-2. A bit of pressure on the forecheck by the Jarret Stoll-Kyle Calder-Dustin Brown line. This line has picked up a little chemistry over the past two weeks or so. Calder has shown the more noticeable improvement. He is getting to so many loose pucks. He does exactly that on the goal and shoveled a pass to Brown, who has a wide-open net.
Through two, Harrold is getting the occasional shift at wing, but the Kings have elected to play five defensemen and keep Harrold up front -- at least for now.
Kings Coach Terry Murray continues to get the matchup he wants with Michal Handzus vs. Lang ... much like the first, the Canadiens being content to stay with it.
Big hit by Mike Komisarek on Patrick O’Sullivan with two minutes to go in the period. Komisarek has been the most effective physical player so far.
3-2 Kings. Once again the new and improved Calder with the pass, Stoll with a half-empty net for the cross-body one-timer for the goal, all set up by a turnover by Gorges. He was the victim of the Gauthier hit earlier this period. Gorges coughed up the puck because the Kings' leading hitter and last season's league leader, Dustin Brown, was zeroing in on the Montreal defenseman. Brown finished his check and Gorges went down again. Calder swooped in for another loose puck (I see a trend developing here with Calder). Perfect pass by Calder and Stoll put it up in the net....
Nice to see Gorges back in the game. I did not think Gorges would make it back after that earlier hit. It looked like he was out cold for a split second. We haven’t seen a lot of diving this year. The league has done a good job of getting it out of the game, but in a rarity, Max Pacioretti goes off along with Brown, Brown for the hook and the Habs rookie for the dive. Stay tuned.
-- Jim Fox
Jim Fox is in his 19th season as the Kings' TV color analyst on FS West. He spent his entire 10-year NHL career with the Kings, and at the start of this season ranked eighth on the club's scoring list, eighth in assists and ninth in goals. He has also been the Kings' director of community relations. He lives in Redondo Beach with his wife, Susie.
Photo: The Kings' Dustin Brown scores on Carey Price during the second period. Credit: Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press