LA Kings Winning in the Playoffs Due to Unsung Heroes like Dustin Penner


The Los Angeles Kings won their sixth road playoff game in a row on Saturday night, with a 3-1 Game 1 victory over the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Semifinals.

While the Kings rode the pads of Jonathan Quick in the first period (he made a couple of the most dexterous pad saves you will ever see), just as they did against Vancouver, the Kings captialized on lucky bounces and the play of the players you wouldn’t expect to come up big, like Dustin Penner and Matt Greene(yes, Matt Greene).

Penner had his second consecutive dominant Game 1 performance, and while he didn’t get credited with the game winner this time, his empty net goal in the final minute sealed the deal, as it kicked off the side boards and ricocheted into the net for one of the oddest empty netters you’ll ever see. But his game wasn’t based on luck in Game 1, as his assist on the Kings’ first goal from Slava Voynov, was sublime.

Penner, flanked with Blues and a total of four blue jerseys overloading the corner to the right of goaltender Brian Elliott, swung a cross ice pass through the defense for Voynov, who buried his first ever playoff goal, into an uncontested net. The puck must have had eyes, or plenty of syrup, as Penner couldn’t have imagined the pass being anymore perfect than it was.

But for Dustin Penner, that wasn’t it. His hustle saw him chase down pucks on the forecheck, and even on the backcheck, he wasn’t the liability he was a year ago. While it seems cruel that Penner is spending only his final days as a King in his best form since his Cup run in 2007 with the Ducks, it’s what the Kings have needed since last February to be truly dangerous as Cup contender, and it’s paying dividends. Is he the second coming of Mark Messier? Clearly not. But he’s proving to be valuable piece of the Kings’ offense, even when he’s not scoring.

And of course, speaking of scoring goals, Matt Greene’s winning goal is sure to pay millions to the wayward gambler who bet a dollar that Greene would score the game winner. Greene, who came into the night with just two points(both assists) in 35 career NHL playoff games, scored the most unlikely of goals, a bizarre shorthander.

The Kings, who had just gone down a man to a Dwight King four minute boarding call, lost a draw to Blues’ captain David Backes, but got a lucky bounce off of a skate, which propelled the hustle of Dustin Brown to win the puck and carry it all the way into the crease at the opposite end of the ice, before Elliott made a save that took away his balance. Naturally, the puck sat there motionless for Matt Greene to chip it in, as Elliott laid out to dry in the crease.

There’s something about this team, and maybe it’s the vibes surrounding the 2012 Mayan calendar, but all of a sudden, bounces are going the Kings’ way, literally, as they lead to two goals.

Anze Kopitar has yet to be an All-World player for the Kings in the playoffs, and Jeff Carter is playing injured, though he gets better with each shift. Drew Doughty has been solid but not spectacular, and before tonight, Slava Voynov was pointless. Yet, the Kings have found a way to win five of their first six playoff games, and have earned every one of them, even with some lucky bounces along the way. That’s what good goaltending and a team effort do: they make up for lack of superstar production.

Something is in the air, and if the Kings keep winning, we might just end up looking back at this game and recognize the birth of destiny’s royal touch on the ice.