One of the weaknesses of the NHL's recent cycle of scheduling formats is exposed when teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings meet in the regular season. With meetings few and far between, and no playoff history to draw upon, the cross conference match is a cross-country affair where neither side has much to help fire them up beyond the points at stake in the standings.
For the Kings, at least, that motivation was enough.
Standing on their current strategy of creating a defensive shell around their goaltender and daring offenses to break through, the Kings provided Jonathan Quick with an early lead when Anze Kopitar tipped a Matt Greene point shot off of Dwayne Roloson and into the net. Moving the puck to carefully avoid high traffic areas and executing repeated dumps back into the Tampa zone, LA prevented the Lightning from finding an offensive rhythm until well into the second period when Teddy Purcell lead an odd-man rush past a stickless Rob Scuderi before finding Steven Stamkos for his league leading 35th goal.
Tampa had an opportunity to take a lead with Kyle Clifford in the penalty box for roughing, but Tampa failed to cash in on the opportunity, and a long pass from Scuderi sent Clifford onto a breakaway once he returned to the ice. One-on-one with Roloson, Clifford held his nerve and fired the puck through the five hole to give LA the lead, and the Kings milked the advantage until the dying minutes of the second period, when Dustin Penner one-timed a puck from the slot after a textbook feed from Mike Richards to give the visitors a 3-1 lead that they would protect through the final period, leaving them four points clear of the battle for eighth place in the West. and just two points back of San Jose for the Pacific Division lead.