Jarret Stoll got a nice tribute, while the Kings paid tribute to Januarys past with their on-ice performance. Minnesota 3, Los Angeles 0.
It's much easier to frame Thursday's game as an act of extreme kindness by the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings' long history of winter swoons is well-documented (by us, at least), but this month, the shoe has been on a number of other feet. The Minnesota Wild, for instance, had lost five straight games, scoring 1, 2, 0, 0, and 1 goal in those five games. Not quite as bad as LA's three-goals-in-six-games stretch in January 2014, but bad. So who wants to see another team go through that kind of agony? With a generous lead, LA can afford to be altruistic occasionally.
The reality, of course, is that the Kings made a mistake or two, and when you're playing a team that can clamp down like Minnesota can, one or two mistakes can be deadly. I usually expect the Kings to score a goal or two when they're trailing in the third, but last night, that just didn't look like it was going to happen at all. Darcy Kuemper, the Wild's backup, also didn't look like he was going to allow anything either. The Kings' last big chance came with the result no longer in doubt, but it was the rare occasion when LA breached the Minnesota defense, and Anze Kopitar and Milan Lucic did their best to extend their five-game point streaks. Darcy Kuemper had other ideas when Dustin Brown got the puck, though:
Dustin Brown's face after that Kuemper save sums it all up— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 22, 2016
It's not the fault of those three, though; Kopitar and Lucic were quite good, and pretty much every third period chance came from the top line after Brown swtiched up to there. The third period line changes also indicate that the Jeff Carter right wing experiment might be over, which can only be good news.
FWIW -- not much -- Kings in third period have gone: 17-11-23 70-77-73 22-44-12 74-21-71— Rich Hammond (@Rich_Hammond) January 22, 2016
LA didn't lose because of Vincent Lecavalier being on the second line, though. They lost because of three instances in which a Minnesota player was essentially undefended. Zach Parise's power play goal -- and get ready for a theme here -- came when the Kings got a little too aggressive. Luke Schenn got his stick on the puck on the PK, and when it floated into the air, Schenn and Jeff Carter went after it. Unfortunately, neither of them got it, and Thomas Vanek had the puck. You know, the defense wasn't actually undisciplined here, but it relied on Alec Martinez breaking up this pass to an unseen Parise.
He didn't. A similar combination of bad circumstances and one flawed play doomed LA on the second goal, which was ruled to be onside after a lengthy review. If you're into that you can watch the full three minutes below, but the first 15 seconds will show you Marco Scandella's alert lob pass and Charlie Coyle's slick move.
Again, you can't blame the defenseman (in this case, Drew Doughty) too much for the flawed play (in this case, a shot in which he broke his stick). It just left an opening that the Wild capitalized on. By now, you can predict what happened on the Wild's backbreaking third goal; aggressive play by the d-man (Jake Muzzin, pinching on the power play) which led to a Minnesota chance (a 2-on-1 the other way) that was converted (Erik Haula, after some impressive patience by Mikko Koivu. And scene.
The way the votoing in the Postgame Poll is going kind of shows that there weren't catastrophic failings for the Kings. The bottom six is an easy blame when goals aren't scored, but all in all, a 3-0 defeat can't sit on Jordan Nolan. It was just a night where many of the Kings' best chances were blocked, the opposing goalie played well, and the opponent was efficient. It happens.
We'll end with the aforementioned video tribute to Jarret Stoll, as shown at Staples during the first period. Stoll had a bumpy final season (or two, or three) and an embarrassing end to his time in Los Angeles, but he received an enthusiastic and lengthy ovation from the crowd last nigh. Long-term, he's probably going to be remembered just as much for his Game 5 goal and for his contributions early in his tenure, before the Kings became a juggernaut, as for the way it ended. It was time for him to move on, but it was a nice moment in a crappy game.