LOS ANGELES – After scoring the game’s first goal, Evgeny Artyukhin put a hit on Drew Doughty that put the Los Angeles Kings’ rookie defenceman out for the rest of the game – ending the first showdown between the league’s top two draft picks.
Artyukhin and Mark Recchi scored 41 seconds apart late in the first period, Vincent Lecavalier also had a goal, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Kings 3-1 Monday night. But the question on everyone’s minds before the game was how Doughty would do against centre Steven Stamkos – who was chosen just ahead of him last June.
“Stamkos has got some great offensive skills. You saw that on the power play, and a couple of times when he attacked 5-on-5,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen him, and he’s got a very instinctive game.”
Doughty and Stamkos were teammates when Canada won the goal medal in last year’s World Junior Championships. Stamkos has four goals and 11 assists in 41 games, Doughty three goals and nine assists in 42 contests. Stamkos has taken the most shots on net among rookies (84), and Doughty has blocked the most shots among first-year players (53).
“I didn’t get a chance to talk to him before the game,” Stamkos said. “I would have liked to, but it seemed like when we were practising they weren’t. So we never got a chance to meet up. But we talked to each other, said hello out on the ice.”
Doughty left the game with a bruised right thigh after receiving a hard but clean check against the glass by the six-foot-five, 260-pound Artyukhin in the right corner of the Tampa Bay zone at 10:43 of the second period. Kings defenceman Sean O’Donnell followed Artyukhin toward the Lightning bench and cross-checked him in the shoulder, earning himself 2 minutes in the penalty box.
“I don’t think it was a dirty hit from what I saw, but I thought it may have been a little bit of a late hit,” O’Donnell said. “I certainly didn’t know Drew wasn’t going to come back for the third period, but one of our players went down and we were down 3-0. So I was just trying to do what I could to turn the momentum. I didn’t think I was avenging any kind of a cheap shot.”
This was the first time the first two players in an NHL draft met during the ensuing season since Oct. 22, 2003, when Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (No.1) stopped all four shots by Carolina’s Eric Staal (No.2) in a 1-1 tie. The previous three combos were Owen Nolan and Petr Nedved (1990), Alexander Daigle and Chris Pronger (1993), and Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau (1997).
“The beginning of the game, it was pretty fun playing against him,” Stamkos said. “I played with him my whole junior career, so it was definitely special for us. But then Evgeny threw a big hit and unfortunately Drew got injured, so I didn’t see him the rest of the game. But I’ll see him in Montreal at the YoungStars game.”
Doughty will be re-evaluated on Tuesday. Murray was upset that the incident didn’t serve as a motivator for the rest of the team.
“That’s a response that players need to take in their own hands right away – through hard play and just doing the right stuff, getting the puck into the offensive zone, physically playing hard and competing harder,” Murray said. “That’s something that this team, I think, should know. But we don’t. Now we have to go through that process and learn something out of that hit on Doughty.”
Mike Smith made 29 saves, helping lead the Lightning to their third win in four games and improving his career record against the Kings to 5-0-0. The only puck that got past him was Peter Harrold’s one-timer to the glove side at 18:02 of the second period.
Tampa Bay’s David Koci and Kings enforcer Raitis Ivanans both received fighting majors and 10-minute misconducts at 17:33 of the opening period. The brawl appeared to spark the Lightning, who opened the scoring 43 seconds later after managing just three shots on net to that point.
“In my opinion, it was just a coincidence,” O’Donnell said. “We just kind of had a couple of mental breakdowns, but I don’t think it had anything to do with the fight. Those kind of things only turn a game around when it’s a one-sided fight. But this was just two big guys, and no one really seemed to get a real clean shot. There was just a lot of grappling.”
Stamkos got an assist on Artyukhin’s goal, tipping Vladimir Mihalik’s backhanded clearing pass ahead to Artyukhin and starting a 3-on-1 rush. Artyukhin carried the puck into the right circle with Adam Hall on the other side of defenceman Peter Harrold, then took a wrist shot that beat Erik Ersberg to the stick side.
Recchi made it 2-0 with his 10th goal and 532nd of his career, scoring on a 12-foot backhander that beat Ersberg to the glove side after he stopped Vincent Lecavalier’s shot from close range.
The teams were skating 4-on-4 when Lecavalier’s team-high 17th goal gave Tampa Bay a three-goal lead at 5:48 of the second. He used O’Donnell as a screen and beat Ersberg to the stick side with a one-timer from the middle of the left circle.
Notes: Ten of Lecavalier’s 17 goals this season have come in Tampa Bay’s 13 victories, including three two-goal efforts. … Tampa Bay LW Gary Roberts, whose 232 penalty minutes against the Kings represent his third-highest total against any team, hasn’t played since Nov. 29 because of an injured left elbow and plans to retire at the end of the season. … This is the second time the Lightning have beaten the Kings and Anaheim Ducks in back-to-back road games. They also did it Dec. 4-5, 1993.