More tackles than goals today, I'm afraid. - USA TODAY Sports
Kari Lehtonen flusters the Kings for the second time this year, making 40 shots and resisting a number of close-range efforts. Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney each score in the final period to break the deadlock, and despite stretches of strong play the Kings lose at home.
Well, we couldn't enjoy that newfound goaltending excellence tonight, because Kari Lehtonen brought his A+ game. Lehtonen faced 40 shots and stopped all 40, and Jaromir Jagr once again was the difference on the offensive end as the Dallas Stars handed the Kings a rare home loss, 2-0.
The first period was a frustrating one, as the King outshot the Stars 12-5 but could not put a goal on the board. I was reminded of Kings radio color commentator Daryl Evans, who really likes to discuss "Grade A" scoring chances. This game was chock-full of them for LA. But in the first eleven minutes, Los Angeles didn't even get an even strength shot. After those eleven minutes? They came out firing. A hard wrister by Anze Kopitar. A wraparound by Justin Williams. An impressive individual rush by Jordan Nolan. And at period's end, a Kyle Clifford near-breakaway. Not every save was too difficult, but the Kings were getting into good positions and making Lehtonen work.
In seemingly every game this season where the Kings have struggled to score, the second period has been a disheartening flurry of shots with no payoff. Tonight, there were 18 second-period shots, and it wasn't a case of the Kings throwing the puck at the net desperately. They were controlling the offensive zone and pressing the Stars into mistakes, and a number of their chances from close range, including a Dwight King tap-in off of a great play by Trevor Lewis... which was stopped by an alert Lehtonen. In fact, feel free to be encouraged by the third line's performance tonight. No goals, but plenty of shots, and their contributions might have meant more without a hot goalie.
By the third, the Kings might have been burned out, only outshooting Dallas 10-6. And the jump wasn't as evident as it had been in the second, which meant #32 had to step up his game a bit. Jonathan Quick had played a good game prior, but he saved his best for a stunning glove save on Trevor Daley to keep the game scoreless in the third.
And the puck toss! Good to see cocky Quick during that power play; unfortunately, some old dude on the Stars was able to break through his resistance shortly after, and he couldn't do much about it. Jagr had two goals in the first Kings-Stars matchup, and tonight he was at it again. Jamie Benn took the puck into the zone and dropped the puck back to Jagr, who was able to get around Kopitar and had some room to work with. Jagr waited and waited until he flung the puck toward the net, where it bounced off of Drew Doughty's leg and past a helpless Quick. A lucky break, to be sure, but a good play by Benn and Jagr to find some space, and as we saw tonight, take goals however you can get them.
Ray Whitney added the second goal midway through the period, creating a two-goal lead that must have seemed insurmountable with Lehtonen between the pipes. Dustin Brown leveled Cody Eakin with a huge hit in the Dallas zone instead of following Loui Eriksson, and with Scuderi cheating forward and scrambling to get back, Slava Voynov had to defend the odd-man rush. Eriksson passed to a trailing Alex Goligoski, and Goligoski forwarded the puck to Whitney below the left circle. Whitney's one-timer cleanly beat Quick, and after Lehtonen stopped seven more shots in the last ten minutes, he had his first shutout of the season.
So yeah, frustrating game. What were your thoughts? Other than not scoring, were the Kings missing anything tonight? Were we cursed by the scratching of Tyler Toffoli? And how much would we hate Jagr if he'd been in our division for the last 20 years?