So, I have fond memories of the old alternate jerseys we wore tonight in Phoenix. I've watched many a game at Staples Center with a purple/black crown on my chest and low expectations in tow. It turns out the jerseys will be retired a week from tonight, and for me, there was a tinge of sadness upon finding that out. But if tonight's effort was any indication, the Los Angeles Kings can't wait to be rid of them.
The Kings had already endured three back-to-back sets this season, and in each set, they had triumphed in the second game. But that ended tonight, as the Phoenix Coyotes looked stronger and more energetic all night. The result was an uninspired showing and a 5-2 defeat for the Kings, and guess what? The Western Conference is tightening up... again.
The first period started in a similar fashion to last night's first frame against Calgary. Not many shots to start, an early power play giving the Kings a chance to start off on the right foot, and Jonathan Quick called into action a few times. The power play showcased decent movement, but they didn't put a shot on goal. So naturally, the Coyotes won a defensive zone faceoff, then went right down the ice and took the lead. Mikkel Boedker and Raffi Torres exchanged the puck a couple times, and Boedker ended up moving in from the blue line with the puck. Boedker outskated all three Kings third-liners and beat Quick with a low wrister from the slot. Later on, another Kings power play offered good puck control and a clean look for Jake Muzzin in the middle, but Mike Smith stopped it and the Coyotes again countered with a goal. Derek Morris took a shot from the middle, and Shane Doan moved in from the corner to tip the puck past Quick. The first period ended 2-0, and the Kings were in trouble.
Muzzin took a hooking penalty early in the second, giving the Coyotes their first power play of the evening. Enter Bob Miller.
Boy, this is a big kill for the Kings... they don't wanna get down three-nothing.
Mikkel Boedker got the puck on the man advantage and was again given space to move towards the net. After getting past Kopitar he was left to deal with Scuderi, Brown, and Voynov, but all three remaining Kings played Boedker passively and let him get all the way to the slot. He found himself in a crowd once he got there, but he had just enough room to put a wrist shot into the top corner. 3-0... Bob's nightmare scenario had occurred. It got worse after another Muzzin penalty; the Kings killed it off, but they were clearly losing their legs, and Shane Doan got another look at the net. Doan's shot squirmed free of Jonathan Quick, and Ellerby was beaten to the crease by Raffi Torres. Yep, Torres scored. That was the low point.
Things started looking up after Martin Hanzal's cross-checking penalty on Justin Williams. It looked dangerous, but Hanzal looked incredulous; after all, Hanzal doesn't deliver dangerous hits! Anyway, the Kings had looked decent with the man advantage in the first period, and they got their first of two power play goals after a long shift in the offensive zone. Jarret Stoll fed Slava Voynov, who moved it on to Mike Richards, with Dustin Penner running traffic in front of Smith. The Richards slapper was more of a flutter-er (is that a thing?), but with Smith screened, the high shot found its way in off the bottom of the crossbar. The Kings needed another goal in the frame to realistically have a chance at a comeback; unfortunately, the one good look went to Drew Doughty. The snakebitten D-man could only fire his shot straight into Smith's chest.
But Dustin Brown did give the Kings an unrealistic chance early in the third! The power play only needed 14 seconds to score after a Derek Morris hooking penalty. The Kings took the puck although Anze Kopitar lost the faceoff, and with Williams in front, the movement was smooth: Brown, to Muzzin, to Voynov, to Kopitar, to Muzzin, to Brown, to the net. The power play is now 9-29 (31%) in the last nine games, so we do have one bright spot going forward. But with 15 minutes to go, LA couldn't convert a number of opportunities immediately after the captain's goal, and the score remained 4-2. Then, the Coyotes' Rob Klinkhammer scored at the 10:55 mark, finishing off another rough evening for Quick and the Kings D. After a good penalty kill, Davis Drewiske pinched way down and was victimized by a Coyotes rush. Voynov blocked the passing lane on the 2-on-1, so Klinkhammer shot and beat Quick in Jim Fox's favorite spot: "Over the blocker, under the pad."
There was a bit of late absurdity after Derek Morris knocked Dustin Penner into the net away from the play and Mike Smith didn't exactly allow Penner to exit after the whistle. Oh, those zany Coyotes. But the boys probably weren't amused after their third 5-2 loss of March. The Kings remain in decent position, in fourth place in the West with 30 points through 25 games. Having said that, there are seven other teams in the conference with 28-30 points right now, and the San Jose Sharks and the Phoenix Coyotes are two of those teams. LA's next four games are against those two teams, and the effort will have to be better for the Kings to solidify their playoff place in the insane Western Conference.