Tyler Toffoli became the first NHL player to score a hat trick during Saturday’s outdoor game which led the Los Angeles Kings to a 3 - 1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at Falcon Stadium, U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. What an accomplishment for the right winger in front of a sellout crowd of 43,574. Toffoli wasn't the only King who came to play, Jonathan Quick who has not been playing well this season turned back the clock and played astonishing with thirty two saves as the Avalanche camped in the Kings’ zone for the majority of the game. Quick would save shot after shot and the defensive unit would make key blocks to prevent rebounds from touching an Avalanche stick. This game doesn't take away the fact the Kings have an abysmal 21 - 33 - 5 record but they played like the 2014 Stanley Cup Champions last night.
The Avalanche would waste no time blasting pucks at the net but Quick shut down Nathon MacKinnon and denied Eric Johnson on three shots. Joakim Ryan was fitted for a body cast after he got nailed by Matt Nieto and Tyson Jost just :15 apart. A couple minutes later, Ryan and the Kings took revenge on Nieto as both Ryan and Drew Doughty delivered hits :16 apart. After Quick made back-to-back stops on Johnson and Vladislav Kamenev, Jeff Carter was called for hooking but to many of the fans surprise, the Avalanche only collected two shots on the power play. Adrian Kempe would squeeze through two defenders and took a shot but no goal as Philipp Grubauer made the save, this was the Kings second shot on goal. Time would go by with Quick and the defense running around like headless chickens but continued to hold off the Avalanche. To add insult, the Kings scored the first goal as Alex Lafallo found Ryan at the point who ringed it off the post for Toffoli to register it on the right side of the net, 1 - 0 Kings. Despite the Kings’ lead, the first would end with the Avalanche out shooting the Kings 18 - 5.
The second period would start off very physical with a capital P as Kurtis MacDermid slammed Andre Burakovsky, Mikko Rantanen responded with a hit on Matt Roy, then Roy laid one out on Burakovsky only to have Johnson nail Doughty, this game went from a track race more like a boxing match as hits were thrown left and right. The Avalanche were slowing down but outside of Quick, it looked like the frigid temperature froze up the Kings as the night went on. The Avalanche would eventually snap out of it with shots from defensemen, Samuel Girardi, Cale Makar and Ryan Graves but to no avail Quick halted them all. The Kings had chances at the other end but Anze Kopitar and Toffoli missed shots :10 in-between. Unfortunately for the Kings, Quick is no “Duncan” (Geico commercial) and allowed a fluke goal as he lost his stick when then Girardi cranked one from the blue line, Rantanen tallied with the lone assist, even at one at the second intermission.
The Kings would fight to retake the lead but Ryan and Alec Martinez were both stopped by Grubauer. Despite the frustrating night for the Avalanche, it would only get worse as Austin Wagner was stopped by Grubauer when his own teammate, Ian Cole collided into him, Grubauer went down on the ice for about half a minute and was helped to the bench ending his night, in came the dominate rookie, Pavel Francouz. The Avalanche would use the injury as momentum getting shots from Cole and Jost but luck was on Quick’s side. The Kings were in serious trouble as Blake Lizotte served two minutes for holding, just :17 later, Burakovsky was called for interference, both teams played cold four on four. Francouz continued to play solid in his relief appearance stopping Carter, Sean Walker and Trevor Moore. The next eight minutes would be a lock looking like the game was going into overtime, that was until Kopitar won the faceoff, Toffoli hit a wrist shot in front of the net for his second of the game giving the Kings a 2 - 1 lead with just 54.3 left on the clock. Lafallo made a lead up pass to Kopitar who would find Toffoli all alone for the hat trick giving the Kings a commanding 3 - 1 victory.
It's unfortunate the Kings are not a wildcard team or remotely in the hunt for the playoffs, if this game was played earlier in the season, this would be the type of game that could motivate the team around for more positive things to come. With this type of no nonsense goaltending and hard nose defense, to the player on the trade block scoring a hat trick on a nationally televised game, the team should find another avenue during their rebuilding stage to hold on to Tyler Toffoli, twenty seven years old with thirty one points. With or without Grubauer, this game should have gone into overtime, the Avalanche dominated the shots, faceoff wins, takeaways and blocked shots but couldn’t manage a win at the end. With the playoffs right around the corner, was it the frigid Colorado temperature that stopped the Avs cold in their tracks? Worst of all, the Dallas Stars have passed the Avalanche for second in the Central Division, from being a cup contender last week to back to back losses this week, now with Grubauer’s lower body injury, one can only wonder if this could bump them into a wildcard team.