Maybe the Los Angeles Kings were afraid of going up 3 games to 0 after what they did in the first round of the playoffs? That's the only explanation I have as for why the Kings, back home with a 2-0 series lead after two days of rest, once again struggled against the Anaheim Ducks. This time, they weren't able to pull out the win, as Anaheim grabbed a 3-2 victory.
What troubled LA tonight? For one thing, the Kings couldn't connect on passes to save their lives. Their breakouts weren't awful; aside from one shift where poor Jeff Schultz looked around for ten seconds and couldn't figure out where to go with the puck, the Kings seemed to have an idea of how to start out of their own zone. However, the trouble came once they got to the neutral zone. Time and time again, LA would let the puck bounce off of their stick, or watch as it went just out of reach. The Ducks did a good job of getting sticks into those passing lanes, and more often than not, a King would try a wild saucer pass which led to nothing.
Anaheim had no such problems; in particular, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry seemed to enter the zone with control regularly, and almost always got a decent scoring chance out of said entry. The Kings outshot Anaheim 31-22, thanks largely to their desperation when trailing in the 3rd; however, the scoring chance battle was won easily by Anaheim.
Final scoring chances for Kings/Ducks pic.twitter.com/xMsGdC4Tzl— Nick (@dightkwing) May 9, 2014
Fun fact: LA scored on their only two scoring chances not at even strength. Jeff Carter finished off a quick passing play on LA's sole power play in the second period, as Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar each continued their productive ways with assists. (That's ten games in a row with points for Kopitar, who is the first King to do that not named Wayne Gretzky.) The second non-even scoring chance was with the goaltender pulled, as Mike Richards executed a picturesque baseball swing to knock in a high rebound of a Tanner Pearson shot. The only disappointing thing there was that the goal only made it 3-2.
Meanwhile, the Ducks also converted on every one of their power plays. They got two; Perry's first-period power play tally featured the same pinpoint puck movement as Carter's goal, while a defensive breakdown led to Teemu Selanne tapping in the Ducks' second with just three seconds left in a difficult kill. Jeff Carter was a bit late getting back and Anze Kopitar fell down in the neutral zone, but blame goes to Slava Voynov (who was muscled off the puck in the neutral zone by Nick Bonino) and Alec Martinez (who, facing a 2-on-1, positioned himself poorly and allowed Bonino to find Selanne). Especially after Schultz and Matt Greene had killed the 5-on-3 immediately prior, it was hugely deflating.
That was also the game's final power play. The referees essentially decided to let the game play out free of whistles for the last 25 minutes. It was mildly annoying when the teams were allowed to hook and interfere at will, but it was more annoying when a late high stick by Francois Beauchemin went uncalled. Less than a minute later, Ben Lovejoy got a step on Dwight King and went top shelf on Jonathan Quick to make it 3-1, essentially sealing it with 2:55 left. Corey Perry snapped his stick hilariously on an attempted empty-netter, allowing Richards to make it a one-goal game with 31 seconds left, but the game fizzled out after that.
Not to say that the referees deserve blame for how this one played out. Despite improving their possession, the Kings simply looked toothless for most of the evening. Seemingly every shot that didn't go into Frederik Andersen's glove produced a rebound, but LA never had guys in position to take advantage. Jonas Hiller took over for the final ten minutes after an apparent Andersen injury and exhibited better control, so even when LA improved their offensive look, they couldn't score until it was too little too late.The Kings now have three 5-on-5 goals in three games, to go with two 5-on-4 goals, two 6-on-5 goals, and an empty netter.
LA needs more from their offense at even strength, especially when their defense can't bail them out. On the back end, Quick was passable but couldn't steal this game, while the defensemen as a whole didn't play their best. In particular, Voynov looked really shaky, and Muzzin and Doughty often got caught trying to do too much and weren't up to their usual standards. The problems tonight could certainly be addressed by Game Four, and they'll need to be; going into Game 5 all tied up doesn't sound nice.