You can make a pretty decent argument that for the final 40 minutes of Thursday’s game against the Canucks, the Kings were the better team. However, at the end of the day, the Kings only generated two goals in those final 40 minutes, didn’t score any goals at 5-on-5, and failed on five power plays, as their absolutely horrendous start proved too much for the offensively-challenged Kings to overcome, as they fell 3-2 in regulation on home-ice to the Vancouver Canucks, falling to 7-6-3 on the year, and an abysmal 2-5-2 in their last nine games.
To say that the Kings didn’t start this game off the way they wanted would be a ridiculous understatement. In my game preview, I said that discipline would be key against a Canucks team that was coming off a game where they scored five power play goals and had the second best power play in the NHL with a 26.4% success rate coming into the night. So what do they do? Trevor Lewis takes an elbowing major to give the Canucks an early five-minute power play, and then Drew Doughty takes a cross checking minor to give Vancouver a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes, and they capitalized with the 5-on-3 and with the 5-on-4. The Kings had a chance with a power play to get right back in it, but failed, and shortly after, the Canucks scored again, to make it a daunting 3-0 mountain for the Kings to climb in final two periods. Not only did the Kings have to stop the Canucks from scoring again, but they had to score three goals in the final two periods, and the Kings had only scored three or more goals in regulation three times in their 15 games coming in tonight. They stopped the Canucks from scoring again, and actually played pretty well, but because of a truckload of bad bounces, bad luck, and missed opportunities, especially with the man-advantage that the Kings need to take advantage of when they struggle so much to score 5-on-5, you can now make it three in 16.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Quick is mired in a 0-4-2 slide. It really isn’t his fault though, his team could not be much worse in front of him right now. They aren’t scoring goals for him, and they’re uncharacteristically playing awful defensively as well. Although he could still use some improvement as far as cleaning up his defensive play and making smarter decisions goes, and staying out of the box, Drew Doughty appears to be coming around. He was once again in on both Kings goals tonight, just like he was on Monday in San Jose, this time scoring one and assisting on the other. He has two goals and three assists in the last three games, so hopefully he can keep this up. Dustin Penner looked decent today, not as good as he did against Nashville but certainly much better than he usually has looked here. Baby steps. He was held off the scoreboard, though.
I was actually impressed with the way that the Kings battled back in the last two periods. After that horrendous start, falling behind 3-0 against an elite team, the Kings came back and made it a game, when I really was expecting them to just pack it in after the first. They probably win tonight without that horrible start, and instead of talking about the loss, we’re talking about their second-straight win and how they’ve gotten back on track. On the other hand, they did have that bad start, they missed a lot of opportunities, and at the end of the day, they didn’t win. The Kings need to start beating some of the upper-echelon teams in the league. They lost to Vancouver, they lost to San Jose, they lost to Pittsburgh, they lost to Buffalo. These are the teams that the Kings have to beat. To be the best, you need to beat the best, and the Kings need to start coming out on top in some of these games with elite teams.
Just seven wins in their first 16 games. I don’t think that’s how the Kings saw their season starting. On the other hand, there’s still lots of hockey left for the Kings to turn this around, but they really need to start winning, and soon. Their supposed bread and butter, their defensive play and penalty kill, haven’t been working recently, so right now the Kings really need to worry about getting that back on track, and then they need to start working on the offense again. The Kings have a lot of work in front of them, and they’ll try and get started when they host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, but before I get you set for that game, let’s recap this loss to the Canucks…
1st period: This was the nightmare period that put the Kings in a massive hole right from the very beginning. At the 3:03 mark, Trevor Lewis was assessed an elbowing major for his hit on Kevin Bieksa that left Bieksa bloodied, and the Canucks were given a five-minute power play. Then still with 2:28 remaining in the Vancouver power play, Drew Doughty took a cross checking penalty to give the Canucks a full two minutes of a 5-on-3 power play. Miraculously, the Kings actually somehow killed the first 1:16 of it off, but then at the 6:51 mark, Sami Salo got the puck at the right point and stepped into a slap shot that rang off the far post and in, for his fourth goal of the year. Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler picked up assists. Then just 42 seconds later, on the 5-on-4 advantage at the 7:33 mark, Andrew Ebbett shot from Quick’s right that went off of Willie Mitchell’s skate in front of the net and by Quick. Cody Hodgson and Alex Edler picked up the assists on Ebbett’s first goal of the year, but my question is, what the heck was Alain Vigneault thinking when he put Andrew Ebbett on the power play? Seriously? I mean, I know it worked, but come on. Then at the 15:42 mark, shortly after the Kings had failed on a power play, Henrik Sedin fed a nice backhand saucer pass to Aaron Rome at the point, who blasted a one-time slap shot by Quick. Daniel Sedin also got an assist. Kyle Clifford and Dale Weiss fought in the last minute. The Canucks went 2-for-3 on the power play in the frame, while the Kings went 0-for-1. Vancouver outshot Los Angeles 12-3 in the opening frame.
2nd period: The Kings finally got on the board at the 10:30 mark of the middle frame. On a power play, Jack Johnson faked a shot from the top of the circles, and then passed off to Doughty on his left who one-timed an absolutely beautiful slap shot right by Luongo’s glove and under the crossbar with Dustin Brown doing a good job of running traffic in front and proving a screened Luongo for Doughty. It was Doughty’s second goal of the year, and second in as many games. Anze Kopitar also picked up an assist. In the last minute of the period, the Canucks appeared to have taken a 4-1 lead on another goal from Rome, but it was determined that Jannik Hansen had made incidental contact with Jonathan Quick, so the goal was waved off immediately, but no penalty was assessed on the play. The Kings went 1-for-3 on the power play in the period, while the Canucks went 0-for-1. Vancouver outshot LA 14-12 in the frame.
3rd period: The Kings had several glorious chances to pull within one, but either they’d hit the post, or the puck would take a bad bounce, or something would happen that would keep the puck out of the net, until they pulled Quick for the 6-on-5 advantage and finally scored at the 18:50 mark. Mike Richards won the draw, the puck got back to Doughty at the left point who sent the puck across to his right to Anze Kopitar who took a one-time slap shot that was redirected on its way by Mike Richards and past Luongo, for Richards’ fourth of the year. That was as close as the Kings would come though, as the Canucks held on for the 3-2 regulation win. On the power play, the Kings went 0-for-2 in the third, and 1-for-6 on the night while the Canucks went 0-for-1 on the third, and 2-for-5 on the night. The Kings outshot the Canucks 15-6 in the frame, but the Canucks outshot the Kings 32-30 on the night.
Some other notes from tonight’s game, Colin Fraser I thought looked very good. The Kings are going to have a decision to make when Scott Parse comes back as to who they’re going to get rid of to make room for him, or if they’re going to get rid of Parse, and Fraser made a good first impression on his new team as he tries to prove that he deserves to stay in the lineup. Terry Murray also said he was impressed with Fraser, so hopefully he can keep it up. Meanwhile, after having their streak of 23 consecutive shutouts at Staples Center end on Tuesday against the Predators, the Kings sold out against the Canucks, but as usual when the Canucks come to town, there were a ton of Vancouver fans in the crowd and it was very noticeable. It’s very strange how there’s always so many Canucks fans at Staples Center whenever the Canucks come to town, and I’m not sure why they always follow the team down to LA. Also funny how this just started in the last year or two. Yup, the bandwagon is out in full force.
Anyways, the Kings will try and bounce back on Saturday night when they host the Minnesota Wild. Stay tuned for a game preview coming sometime before the puck drops at Staples Center at 10:30 PM ET/7:30 PM PT.