The less said about this one, the better. The Los Angeles Kings no longer control their own density in pursuit of the fourth spot in the West. They have eight wins in 21 road games. And if that's the hill they have to climb, they'll look at last night's game in Minnesota and tonight's matchup against the Detroit Red Wings as two of the reasons why.
The Kings were outplayed tonight, start to finish, about as badly as they have been all year. Aside from Rob Scuderi and Slava Voynov (who ended up being minuses for the game anyway) and Brad Richardson, not one Kings skater was on the ice for more shot attempts for than against. Seriously, look at the Shot Differential link above, it's ugly.
Anyway, the first period was scoreless despite the Kings being outshot 13-4. The high point of the period for LA (other than Quick making saves) was Tyler Toffoli avoiding a massive hit from Nicklas Kronwall. Good dexterity, kid! To my surprise, Darryl Sutter kept the interesting first line of Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, and Tyler Toffoli together for the entire game, but it was clear that those three weren't quite connecting throughout. They did, however, contribute the only two great Kings chances of the first 25 minutes. Toffoli wound all the way up on a slap shot and nearly gave Richards a rebound opportunity until Brendan Smith broke it up, and later on, Kopitar hit the post with a big shot of his own. Tonight was Kopitar's 15th straight goalless game; as much as he contributes in other areas, gotta agree with Helene Elliott that he needs to get back on the scoresheet soon.
Jonathan Quick had already made 16 saves by the time Kyle Clifford and the new third line put the Kings up 1-0. Soon after Kopitar's shot hit the post, LA got the puck in deep and Jarret Stoll forced the puck towards Kyle Clifford. Clifford alertly reached out and delivered a nice chip to Trevor Lewis in front. The initial shot was stopped, but Clifford bulled his way into the goalmouth and shot the rebound past Jimmy Howard. But the Wings redoubled their efforts and tied the game within five minutes. Pavel Datsyuk was the culprit; after receiving a blind backhand cross-ice feed from Jonathan Ericsson, Datsyuk deked Drew Doughty and beat Quick (who was in full split) through the tiniest of five-holes.
The game hung in the balance for a while, but 5:42 into the final frame, Detroit took the lead through their fourth line. Patrick Eaves was the second-least used forward for the Wings, but he had produced a few chances on the night, and he got two shots to beat Quick. Quick's shoulder stopped the first; the second was deflected perfectly by Jordin Tootoo (the LEAST used forward for the Wings) and past Jonathan Quick. And yes, the stick was well below the crossbar. The Kings got only two power play chances tonight, and both fizzled out; the second (after a Valtteri Filppula interference penalty) gave LA a shot at equalizing, but Howard only had to stop one shot (a mid-range slap shot by Jake Muzzin). Robyn Regehr gave Detroit their second power play chance with 8:33 to go, and the Wings capitalized through Johan Franzen. Franzen set up shop in front of Quick, and Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk played catch along the side boards. With Matt Greene trying in vain to push/check Franzen out of the slot, Zetterberg spun and passed to the front, and Franzen had no trouble tipping in the feed.
Unfortunately, that was game, set, and match. The Wings now look very likely to extend their two-decade-long playoff streak. As for the Kings, what more to say? Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, and Richardson (the second line) technically had the best performance possession-wise, but all that gets you is a little JftC praise and, for Carter, two missing front teeth after a Quick save deflected into his face.
(via Instagram - LAKingsHockey)
Ouch. Meanwhile, the third and fourth lines had a rough evening, and Regehr, Greene, Doughty, and Muzzin all had their share of unflattering moments. Not even Dustin Brown would have changed the outcome tonight.