The Los Angeles Kings were going to have a letdown game against a lower-caliber team sooner or later. Kinda wish it was after Christmas, though. The Dallas Stars ensured that LA would have plenty to dwell on over the next four days with a 5-2 win at the Staples Center.
It all started well enough, with an early 4-on-4 opportunity after penalties to Vernon Fiddler and Jarret Stoll. Before Dallas could even muster a shut on goal, LA took the lead on a nifty team goal. Starting out from their own goal line, Drew Doughty gave Anze Kopitar a nice lead pass up the middle. Kopitar dropped a pass back to Justin Williams, who dropped it right back to Kopitar after entering the zone. Williams then split the two Dallas defenders to cut to the net as Kopitar's low shot was stopped by Kari Lehtonen. Williams jumped on the rebound and slid it by Lehtonen on the rebound to give LA the lead.
Dallas would get two shots after the teams returned to 5-on-5, their first two shots of the game. To the shock of basically everyone, both shots went in to put the Stars ahead. To the shock of basically no one, the goalscorers were Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. After Drew Doughty and the Kings went out of their way to praise Benn before the game, he proved himself worthy of the plaudits with his performance tonight. It started on the first goal, as he took possession behind the boards, fought off Colin Fraser, and wired a perfect pass onto the stick of Seguin. With Doughty falling down in front of him, Seguin immediately beat Martin Jones with a wrister into the top corner. Hard to pin too much of the blame on Jones there.
The second was a little worse for Jones, though he didn't get much help. Along the boards in the neutral zone, Williams was stopped up and tried to pass blindly backwards; however, with Dustin Brown out ill, his temporary linemates didn't really get what Williams was doing. Trevor Lewis was already heading off for a line change and Jarret Stoll was nowhere near the puck, so Jamie Benn happily took it instead. Benn drove down the right wing past Robyn Regehr, who didn't cover himself in glory but at least forced Benn to the outside. With no other options, Benn simply placed a pinpoint backhander inside the post, a really nice shot which should probably have been stopped by Jones. Two shots, two goals, and the murmurs begun.
The victimized line for LA came back to score the tying goal before the first period ended; Williams controlled the puck for a while in deep, and his pass was deflected straight to Jarret Stoll, whose spinning slapshot tipped off a Dallas defender and past Lehtonen. (Trevor Lewis got the secondary assist.. his FIRST point of the season!) The two goals against overshadowed an otherwise strong period for LA, who outshot the Stars 13-4. Unfortunately, the Stars kept pace at even strength and dominated on the power play during the middle frame, and they were able to take the lead right back five minutes in. Jamie Benn again started the play, but it was Tyler Seguin who caught the Kings off-guard with a cross-ice pass when all expected a shot. Jones was too slow to get across the crease, and rookie Valeri Nichushkin one-timed it in for the first line's third goal.
Nichushkin got another great scoring chance on a later power play, as the Kings' willingness to got to the penalty box gave Dallas plenty of opportunities. All veterans, too; Stoll, Regehr, Matt Greene. Not even a typical Jake Muzzin penalty to throw in there! Martin Jones finally found his form in the second, though, and the game remained 3-2 into the third. The Kings took back the lion's share of the possession then, as they pressed for an equalizer. However, their chances went begging; when they finally did get a power play, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Alec Martinez were all stopped. Dallas got their insurance goal a couple minutes later, after a nonchalant pass from Robyn Regehr to Slava Voynov in the defensive zone was tipped away by Ryan Garbutt. Garbutt beat Voynov to the puck in the corner and found Cody Eakin with a blind pass to the front, and Eakin beat Jones up high. It was Jones' worst game as a pro, and he could only watch when Shawn Horcoff sealed the game with an empty-netter.
So how did the Stars get to Jones? Just ask Kari Lehtonen:
"We talked about how well Jones has played. But I tried to turn it around the other way, like: 'He has to lose one day -- and hopefully it would be tonight.'
CURSE YOU, KARI! Can't believe no one else of turning it the other way.
Anyway, Martin Jones is 8-1-0 now. He'll have four days to think about what he's done before the Kings return to action. In the meantime, enjoy your holiday celebrations, everyone!