For a seventh consecutive time, the Kings came out on the wrong end of a game with the Montreal Canadiens. For a fifth consective game, the Kings failed to score more than two goals. For the 20th time in 26 games this season, the Kings failed to score more than two goals in regulation, and once again, the Kings continue to struggle in home afternoon games as well as struggle to make Staples Center a tough place for other teams to play in, and all of it added up to another frustrating loss, this time, 2-1 in regulation to the Habs before a sellout crowd of 18,118 at Staples Center on Saturday.
If there was one positive, it was Dustin Penner. Penner’s tenure in LA has been, well, to put it bluntly, a disaster. After coming to the Kings at the trade deadline last season, he provided the screen on the game-winning goal in his first game, then had a point in each of his next six games (two goals and four assists). Then, he didn’t record a point until Game Three of the Kings’ first-round playoff series with the Sharks, and only had two points in that series (a goal and an assist). He was out of shape and a huge disappointment, but the Kings had him work out a ton in the summer to get in shape.
He did, but then got injured in training camp, missed the first two games of the regular season, came back, struggled, then got hurt again, and before today, had only played in 14 of the Kings’ 25 games, and had just two points, both assists, as he had to deal with injuries and was never able to get in a groove. His lack of production and apparent laziness frustrated many Kings fans. However, he was starting to play better before he got hurt, which is why it was such a shame that he got hurt. It was clearly a frustrating situation for Penner, but he finally got rewarded with his first goal today, and had a very strong game, other than his somewhat careless goaltender interference penalty. If he can get into a groove now and contribute for the rest of the season, even if his overall stats don’t look great because of the bad start, as long as he can start contributing now and keep it up, then the Kings offense will be greatly benefited and the trade will be well worth it. If today was a turning point for Penner, then I’ll gladly trade this loss for that. Here’s hoping that it was and that Penner can keep improving his game.
Other than that, there weren’t a lot of positives tonight. Jonathan Bernier didn’t give up a great first goal, but was really strong after that, making 25 saves. He stood no chance on the Habs’ second goal. I’m sure he’s disappointed to have gotten another chance to beat the team that he grew up cheering for, after losing in Montreal last year, but both times, his offense didn’t help him out. Maybe he’ll get another shot at them next year, and hopefully he doesn’t have to wait too long to get back into a game this year. The offense still is really struggling, they had no answers for Carey Price and a stingy Habs squad today, and they clearly miss Mike Richards and Willie Mitchell. Here’s hoping they’re back soon.
Also, the Kings didn’t benefit from a couple of late referee decisions. Justin Williams pushed P.K. Subban late in the game, and Subban proceeded to shamelessly jump into the boards and draw a boarding penalty with just 2:25 left that essentially ended the game. Also, the refs missed a clear slashing call late in the game when Subban slashed Jarret Stoll’s stick in half. The Kings could have gotten a 6-on-4 power-play (the goalie was pulled) for about the last 20 seconds, and, no, there’s no guarantee they would have scored, in fact, they probably wouldn’t have, but they at least would have had a chance.
The Kings are slow and continue to play dump-and-chase, and continue to lack a puck possession game and speed, and, unfortunately for the Kings, speed and puck possession seems to be the way you win in this current NHL. What the Kings are doing now clearly doesn’t appear to be working for this team.
Well, after another frustrating loss, the Kings will hope to add to the Ducks’ misery on Tuesday when they visit Anaheim. The Ducks, of course, just dropped their first game under Bruce Boudreau in overtime. Before we get set for that, let’s recap this loss to the Habs…
1st period: The Kings got some power-play time early. Jack Johnson wired one off the post, and then they got a 5-on-3 for 39 seconds after Lars Eller received a boarding penalty for hitting Drew Doughty. Doughty was shaken up, but would be fine. The Kings’ struggling power-play failed to convert against one of the league’s top penalty killing units. Simon Gagne took a pass in front of the net and had a great scoring opportunity, but it was broken up by the stick of Mathieu Darche. Then, after the Kings dominated the entire period but didn’t find the back of the net, of course the Habs converted on what was pretty much their first chance of the game on a power-play late in the frame. Yannick Weber’s shot from the point took a bounce right to Andrei Kostitsyn in the slot who passed up to Tomas Plekanec who put a shot through a scrambling Bernier’s five-hole. It was his sixth goal of the year, and it came at the 18:39 mark. The Kings went 0-for-3 on the power-play in the frame, while the Habs went 1-for-1. Despite trailing 1-0, LA oushot the Montreal 14-5.
2nd period: The Habs got an early power-play, but Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar ended up with a 2-on-1 break. Brown made a toe-drag move to get by Yannick Weber, but his shot was stopped by Carey Price, who had a very strong game. Montreal took a two-goal lead at the 10:48 mark. Matt Greene pinched in the Habs zone to try and keep the puck in, but fell, and the Habs came back on a 3-on-2. Louis LeBlanc came down the left side, fed it to Andrei Kostitsyn on the right wing, who tapped it to Lars Eller in the high slot who gave it right back to Kostitsyn who finished off a very pretty passing play by one-timing his seventh goal of the season by Bernier’s glove, on a goal that he stood no chance on. Then the Kings got a power-play, and capitalized at the 13:46 mark. Drew Doughty patrolled the point before firing a low wrist shot that was tipped by Dustin Penner and beat Price to cut the Habs’ lead in half with Penner’s first goal of the season. Trent Hunter, who ended up taking Kevin Westgarth’s spot in the lineup, got the assist. Although I’m not sure why Hunter was on the power-play when they now had Penner to screen the goalie, I would have put Andrei Loktionov out there instead. The Canadiens dominated the period for the most part, outshooting the Kings 13-7. The Habs went 0-for-1 on the power-play while the Kings went 1-for-1 and would have 23 seconds of another one carry over into the third period.
3rd period: Despite trailing, the undisciplined Kings ran into penalty trouble in the third. At the 4:51 mark, Jack Johnson’s shot from the left point went in, but was waved off because of a goaltender interference penalty on Jarret Stoll. Later, Penner would take a somewhat careless goaltender interference penalty, as I mentioned earlier. Then late in the game, there was the Subban dive and the missed slash on Stoll that sealed the Kings’ fate, as the Habs held on for a 2-1 regulation win. Montreal outshot Los Angeles 9-6 in the third, which is not good for the Kings, considering they were trailing, and the shots were 27-27 on the night. The Habs went 0-for-3 on the power-play in the third and 1-for-5 on the night, while the Kings went 0-for-2 in the frame and 1-for-6 on the night, including the 39 seconds of a 5-on-3 that they failed on early in the game.
By the way, I think I’ve discovered the secret to the Habs’ penalty kill success. You know, it’s really efficient how Hal Gill knees down and covers half of the state. Anyways, there’s always next year for the Kings to beat Montreal, and now they turn their attention to beating the miserable and now Bruce Boudreau-led Ducks on Tuesday. Stay tuned for a game preview coming sometime before the puck drops at Honda Center on Tuesday at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT.