After toppling the NHL’s best penalty-kill unit, the Ottawa Senators will try to stop the league’s hottest power play when the Senators host the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
The San Jose Sharks lead the league in penalty-kill percentage, yet the Senators went 3-for-5 with the extra attacker en route to a 5-2 victory in Ottawa on Saturday. The Senators trailed after the first period before scoring the game’s last four goals.
As good as the Sharks’ system is, Ottawa coach D.J. Smith noted that his team deploys similar tactics for its own penalty-kill unit.
“That’s the penalty kill they face most days (in practice), which is the top-down pressure situation,” Smith said. “There’s five or six teams in the league that play that, and they see it all the time. So it’s not new … but at the end of the day it’s execution.”
Ottawa is 4-1-0 in its last five games, in part because of an increasingly dangerous power play. The Senators are 9-for-24 (37.5 percent) with the man advantage over their last six games.
While those numbers are solid, the Kings have been even better. Los Angeles has scored at least one power-play goal in each of its last six games, with an excellent 9-for-17 total (52.9 percent).
Two of those goals came in the previous meeting between the Senators and Kings on Nov. 27 in Los Angeles. Arthur Kaliyev scored twice on the power play to send the game to overtime, before Claude Giroux scored the winner in a 3-2 Ottawa victory.
The overtime loss was part of a 2-3-3 stretch for the Kings over their last eight games, and the team is looking for more consistency as it embarks on the first of a six-game road trip.
A lack of steady play hurt the Kings in their last game, a 4-2 home loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. Carolina held a 3-0 lead through two periods before the Kings narrowed the gap on third-period goals from Kaliyev (another power-play marker) and Samuel Fagemo.
“I thought in the first period, we were slow … we weren’t skating slow, but our decision to attack at the right time was slow,” Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan said. “So as we released a shot or a pass, there was always a stick on it and it would get deflected away, we’d be frustrated and away we go. As the game wore on, we got better in that area, but it was obviously too late.”
Defenseman Sean Durzi has seven points (one goal, six assists) during a five-game points streak.
Alex Iafallo is expected to return from his lower-body injury at some point during the six-game road trip, if not necessarily on Tuesday. Iafallo has missed all but the Kings’ opening four games of the season.
Jonathan Quick has struggled to a 3.33 goals-against average and .888 save percentage over 19 games this season. Quick is the likely starter on Tuesday, unless Los Angeles wants to give new backup Phoenix Copley his first action since signing with the team during the offseason.
Anton Forsberg was impressive in stopping 35 of 37 shots against San Jose. The strong performance might earn Forsberg another start on Tuesday, but the Senators are probably more apt to put regular starter Cam Talbot (2.50 GAA, .919 save percentage) back between the pipes.
–Field Level Media