The Los Angeles Kings made their annual preseason visit to the Pepsi Center Friday night to take on the Colorado Avalanche for the home team's third preseason game. While each lineup included some legitimate NHL firepower, it was still a typical preseason game filled with soon-to-be AHL players as Colorado's affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, are set to open their training camp Monday.
The first period started out with a pretty even effort on both ends but 6:07 into the game would see the Avalanche take a 1-0 lead on Nathan MacKinnon's first shot of the preseason as he returned from his excellent performance at the World Cup of Hockey. Nikita Zadorov sparked the play as he led the breakout, controlled the zone entry and dropped the puck to Rene Bourque, who fired it across the ice to MacKinnon for the one-timer.
The Kings would begin tilting the ice shortly afterwards but Mikhail Grigorenko would make a great play to read the Kings defense shortly after gaining possession of the puck in the offensive zone and he walked the puck into open space in the slot and fired a backhander passed Kings netminder Jeff Zatkoff for the 2-0 Avalanche lead.
The Kings would finally take advantage of the growing shot disparity in their favor when Trevor Lewis outmuscled Chris Bigras in the corner and beat him to the front of the Avs net and slipped the puck behind Semyon Varlamov to bring the game back to 2-1 and send the Kings into the first intermission feeling good.
A penalty-heavy second period would further tilt the ice in the Kings' favor but a short 5-on-3 power play would see Colorado create some scoring chances, which culminated in Grigorenko's second goal of the night.
Bourque would again win a puck battle, move it ahead to A.J. Greer, who found Grigorenko alone in front of the Kings net as they were caught in the scramble of getting their fourth man back on the ice and Grigorenko would make no mistake in beating Zatkoff for the 3-1 lead.
Despite plenty of shots on goal, few were real tests for Varlamov and he effortlessly kept the game in Colorado's favor heading into the third period.
Even with another Kings advantage in shots in the third period and finishing the game with a 34-22 advantage, Varlamov stood tall and polished off his first preseason action with relative ease.
Rene Bourque's hold of the puck inside the blue line took advantage of a scrambling Kings team as their got their fourth man back on the ice and his pass to A.J. Greer allowed the young forward to find an open Grigorenko in the slot, who easily beat Zatkoff for the 3-1 Avalanche lead, putting Colorado firmly in position to cruise to victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
For the second consecutive game, the Avalanche were thoroughly outshot, 34-22. Despite having the lead throughout the third period, however, they kept it close with just an 11-8 total in the game's final frame. Grigorenko, who struggled mightily in faceoffs last year, was 13-5 on the draw tonight for a 72% win percentage.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"I thought he was really good. It looked like he gobbled up all loose pucks around him and he was steering rebounds into the right areas. He looked sharp and strong down low when they got to the net. Real strong game from him for sure." - head coach Jared Bednar on Varlamov's performance
Colorado's next preseason affair sees them welcome in the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, October 4. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. local time.