Jeff Carter's offense helps injured Kings keep pace in Pacific
ANAHEIM, Calif. – After Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter hit the career 600-point mark in his team’s 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks, he didn’t wax poetic on the achievement.
Instead, he was thinking about another milestone.
“I mean, shoot for 700 now,” Carter said through a toothless grin when asked what it meant to him to hit 600 points.
The play of Carter’s line with Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson got the Kings out to an early advantage on the Ducks, and the team held on in the third period to pick up a crucial two points on the second part of a back-to-back.
“I think we’ve started to get in a little bit of a groove, the three of us the last few games,” Carter said. “I think for us to have success we have to be skating, moving, keeping the puck going north. We can all move pretty good. When we do that we create a lot of opportunities.”
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After the Kings killed off three Ducks power plays in the first period, Carter’s line got the team rolling in the second.
Carter picked up the primary assist on Drew Doughty’s goal that made the game 1-0 at the 2:15 mark of the frame. At the 12:21 mark, Pearson found Carter in front of the net for a tap-in goal past Ducks goaltender John Gibson to make the game 2-0 in favor of the Kings.
Carter got his second goal at the 13:35 mark when he put the puck in the net on a rebound off a Doughty shot to give Los Angeles a 3-0 advantage.
“I think their big thing is speed,” Los Angeles defenseman Alec Martinez said of the Carter trio, which has been dubbed ‘That 70s Line’ in the past. “Carts is a really smart player. He’s good at center. He’s always in the middle and available for us (defensemen) and then those other two – all three of them are able to make really good plays at really high speeds and when those guys are moving their feet and making plays, they’re really difficult to defend and I think you’ve seen that the last few games.”
The Ducks scored two goals in the third period, as they tried to take advantage of the slowing Kings, who seemed to tire from their previous day’s win over the New Jersey Devils. Antoine Vermette scored at the 3:34 mark on a deflection off a Hampus Lindholm shot to bring the game to 3-1. Then Rickard Rakell blasted a feed from Jakob Silfverberg at the 8:36 mark past Kings goaltender Peter Budaj to make it 3-2.
The Ducks out-shot the Kings 17-3 in the third period, but couldn’t overcome the advantage Carter’s line gave Los Angeles. With the win, the Kings pulled into a three-way tie for first place in the Pacific Division with the Ducks and Edmonton Oilers at 21 points. Anaheim came into the game at 5-1-1 in their last seven.
“They dominated us in the first two periods, but I wish we would’ve played the whole game like we did in the third period,” Rakell said. “Maybe it would’ve been different. We have to move forward and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Carter got off to a slow start this season with five points in his first 10 games, but since then he has picked up 12 points in his last nine contests. He has notched up six points in his last three games, which have all been Kings wins. Since captain Anze Kopitar has been out with an upper body injury, Carter has tallied seven points in six games played.
“You lose a guy like (Kopitar) everybody has to step up,” Carter said. “One guy’s not going to fill his spot. Guys have done a good job. We’ll see how it goes here.”
It seems that Carter’s recent strong play has also helped wake Tyler Toffoli from a slump. He has four points in his last three games, which is his best stretch of 2016-17. Before then, Toffoli – who notched 58 points in 82 games last season – had nine points in 17 games.
“They’re good players you have to be aware of,” Ducks forward Antoine Vermette said of Carter’s line. “They played well. They had a couple of big goals, especially on the power play I thought.”
The Kings have also played without sniper Marian Gaborik all season and starting goaltender Jonathan Quick since the first period of the year. Kings coach Darryl Sutter has talked about how his team has needed to weather these injuries and figure out a way to stay in the playoff race. Carter’s recent play has helped prevent Los Angeles from being on the outside looking in.
“You’re going to have injuries throughout the year,” Martinez said. “It’s a part of the game, no more than a penalty or a goal. Things like that happen. Other guys have to step up and you’re obviously not going to replace a guy like Anze Kopitar just like that, so everyone has to pick up their game a little bit and Carts is one of those guys, regardless of who’s out, he’s a big player on our team and has been playing really well.”
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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper
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