Tanner Pearson, Nic Dowd Give LA Kings Much Needed Spark

EL SEGUNDO, CA — With their 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars on October 20 in Dallas, the Los Angeles Kings avoided the first 0-4 start in franchise history, and they did that, in large part, because of the spark provided by left wing Tanner Pearson and rookie center Nic Dowd.

After being a healthy scratch in the first two games of the season, Dowd made his season debut on October 18 at Minnesota, a 6-3 loss. But on October 20 at Dallas, he opened the scoring on the power play at 8:18 of the first period, finishing off a nifty passing with a deke move that Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen bit on, giving Dowd an open right side of the net to shoot at for his first National Hockey League goal.

“I think everybody who comes into the league wants to get the first one out of the way,” said the 26-year-old, 6-2, 196-pound native of Huntsville, Alabama. “Just like you want to get your first game under your belt, you want to get your first goal. [You want to] feel involved, coming to a new team. New guy, first time—starting the season in the NHL. You want to feel like you’re contributing, a part of the team.”

As it turns out, per the Elias Sports Bureau, Dowd is just the second Alabama native to score an NHL goal, the first being defenseman Aud Tuten, a native of Enterprise, Alabama, who played two stints with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1941-42 and 1942-43.

“I had never seen that stat before, but my family, and a couple of guys this morning, talked to me about it,” he said. “I think it was 1943, or something like that.”

As he usually does with young players, head coach Darryl Sutter downplayed Dowd’s accomplishment.

“We need some production—that was something we talked about last spring—from our third and fourth lines,” he observed. “So that was the first goal out of our third and fourth lines.”

Meanwhile, Dowd’s teammates were happy for him.

“I didn’t even realize it was his first NHL goal until after that period,” said Pearson. “I [congratulated him]. I was pretty stoked and happy for him. It’s a pretty good feeling to get that first one. He’s going to remember that one for a long time.”

Dowd received most of the usual congratulatory phone calls and text messages from family and friends.

“I haven’t talked to my Mom or Dad yet, it was pretty late last night,” Dowd noted. “Everybody who I expected to [sent him a text message]. I really appreciated that.”

But did the Kings bother to get that all-important puck for Dowd?

“I think [Dustin Brown] may have grabbed it,” said Pearson.

“I haven’t seen the puck yet,” said Dowd. “I’m assuming they have it. A couple of guys asked me in the pile [immediately after the goal was scored] if it was my first. I’m sure they have it.”

At press time, there was no word on the whereabouts of the puck.

As for the other spark, Pearson has burst onto the scene with three goals and one assist for four points, with a +4 plus/minus rating in two games after sitting out the Kings’ final two pre-season games and the first two games of the regular season after being suspended for an illegal hit to the head of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson on October 2.

“I thought I felt pretty good the last two games,” Pearson noted. “The legs were there, which is the first part that you want to [have] going. I made some good plays as the game went on and playing with [Jeff Carter]—a familiar guy—it’s always nice to hop back in and our line was rolling pretty good, too.”

“You want to come in and help the team as much as possible,” Pearson added. “It’s been a good two games. Just gotta keep it going.”

“I think Tanner, as I said when he came back, hey, you want him to score every game, but he’s going to get opportunities and he can play in your top two lines,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “That’s, quite honest, what we need.”

The addition of Devin Setoguchi on that line has also helped.

“The whole line is a pretty quick line, and Carts up the middle, when he gets going, he hardly looks like he’s moving, but he’s flying,” Pearson observed. “It’s definitely a good speed line. It’s working well.”

Prior to playing with Setoguchi in the last two games, Pearson knew little about him.

“Not much, to be honest,” he said. “Carts and I were walking into the rink in Minnesota and I asked him if he’s practiced at all with Seto. He said no, so it was good that we had a good, first game. We kept it going in the second one, too.”

“[Setoguchi] fits in well,” he added. “Good skater, he can finish plays and make plays. When you’ve got that going, you’ve just got to work out the chemistry, and so far, it’s been there. Hopefully, that consistency keeps on going.”

Setoguchi’s fake slap shot/hard pass to set up Pearson’s goal in the win at Dallas is an indication that the chemistry is developing, perhaps at an accelerated pace.

“He surprised me,” said Pearson. “He surprised everyone. I was ready to dump and chase there and the next thing you know, it was on my tape. It was definitely a heads up play. It was, literally, tape-to-tape. I didn’t even know it was coming. It just hopped on my stick and I went for it.”

“{The rebound] came out pretty clean, which was nice, and I think it was [Stars defenseman John] Klingberg who was spinning around and lost sight of it. [The puck] ended up right where I was going.”

Klingberg got caught because of the fake shot/pass by Setoguchi—they all thought the puck was going to be dumped behind the Dallas net.

“Everyone would’ve [turned to go behind the net],” Pearson noted. “They wouldn’t have expected that pass or the [rebound] to go right back out.”

Sutter indicated that Setoguchi is playing better than he did during training camp.

“I think Devin’s gotten better as we’ve [gone] along, for sure,” he said. “I think he’s a little more settled in his game. We just need to keep pushing him into areas of the ice where he can get still better at.”

The line of Pearson, Carter and Setoguchi is easily the Kings’ fastest line and their speed has had the desired impact. That said, Sutter emphasized that his team is not slow.

“I think our lineup has good balance that way,” Sutter noted. “I like the speed of our team, quite honest. Other than parts of one period this year, it’s given us a chance to win every game.”

“Speed is not just lining up and going to the race and seeing who finishes first at the other end,” Sutter added. “Speed is also being able to operate going fast, and to think going fast, and that matters a lot.”

LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings left wing Tanner Pearson, shown here during practice at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.

Creative Commons License Frozen Royalty by Gann Matsuda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Frozen Royalty – Licensing and Copyright Information.


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