Lots of good discussion yesterday about what went wrong for the Los Angeles Kings against the Dallas Stars. Let's break it down, as we provide an actual, substantive recap of the Kings' 5-1 drubbing at the hands of this year's "team that gives us a really hard time."
If the Kings keep getting perfect starts, they're going to be tough to beat. They started off recent games against Edmonton, Minnesota, and Dallas (that was during our one win against them) with goals inside two minutes, and thanks to a double-minor high sticking penalty by Loui Eriksson, they were in prime position to do so again tonight. On the ensuing power play, Mike Richards faked a shot at the point and moved the puck to Anze Kopitar, who found Drew Doughty with a cross-ice pass. Doughty has fallen into a habit of waiting too long for his shot this season, but this time, he immediately took a wrist shot which beat Kari Lehtonen on the glove side. It was Doughty's third straight game with a goal, and just 1:13 in, it was the high point for Los Angeles.
Jonathan Quick made a big save on Vernon Fiddler soon after when the Stars found a shorthanded 2-on-1, and soon after even strength, he made a double-stop on Larsson and Ray Whitney. Both Fiddler and Whitney would get their revenge later, but it ended up being Alex Goligoski who opened the scoring for Dallas. Aaron Rome's slap shot at the end of their first power play deflected to the side boards, and Goligoski one-timed the corresponding bounce off the boards. No blame on Quick for this one, as the shot was perfect and the screen from Eric Nystrom was ideal.
The game would remain scoreless until the beginning of the third. Interesting sideplots: Dustin Brown continued a tradition of crushing hits on Stephane Robidas with two big ones in the first period. Robidas got his revenge in the second by, um, taking a high-sticking penalty on Brown. Drew Doughty was laid out away from the play on a blindside hit by Cole which wasn't too dangerous, but was pretty cheap. Doughty complained to the refs and got sent to the box for his troubles. Kari Lehtonen left the game in the first after tweaking a lower body (groin, I assume) injury, but the lightly-used Richard Bachman channeled Lehtonen by not giving up a damn thing to Los Angeles. But despite 17 shots in the second period and six minutes of high-sticking power play happy fun time, Bachman wasn't tested all that much. In fact, it was the Stars who should've been ahead after 40 minutes, but Quick stood tall in net (or stood strong, Bernier's more the stand-up goalie) and made some key saves on Ryan Garbutt, Trevor Daley, and others.
I thought the end of the second was the only good stretch of play by the Kings, as the fourth line had some possession, but it was anything but a preview of the third period. Ray Whitney scored 52 seconds into the third, after finding himself open in the middle of the ice and getting a perfect setup from young Alex Chiasson. Vernon Fiddler followed up at 7:58, when Robyn Regehr's weak clearing attempt went off the boards straight to Stephane Robidas. Fiddler deflected the puck in beatifully for a 3-1 lead, and to quote Stars' color commentator Daryl Reaugh...
The Stars have opened up a can on the defending champs.
Turns out Dallas was just getting started. An awful turnover by Dustin Brown gave the puck straight to Cody Eakin. Dish to Loui Eriksson, dish to Ray Whitney (who beat Brown to the front), 4-1 lead at 11:06. Three minutes later, Fiddler matched Whitney with his second goal. He took the puck down the wing, and Jake Muzzin finished off a rough evening by totally botching the play and deflecting the puck past Jonathan Quick. It was, without question, the worst third period the Kings have played this year, and probably their worst individual period since the first period they played this season. The Stars needed this win a lot more, and it showed. Los Angeles still sits in fourth, by virtue of a game in hand, but more efforts like this will squander any chance at home-ice in the first round.