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Recap, Los Angeles Kings @ Buffalo Sabres: Total Meltdown

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Daryl Evans described it better than we could.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Anze Kopitar broke his streak of goalless games. Jeff Carter got another two. We even saw the return of the handshake celebration!

Everything was going quite well, so why are we writing a sad recap of a 6-3 loss? Blame what Daryl Evans aptly called a “total meltdown” in the second period.

[Box Score]

Was the meltdown in goal? You could say that. The Kings’ netminders got beaten twice on shots off the pipe, once at point-blank range, and once when they were on the bench, so you can’t totally fault their performance. But there’s no question that the true spiral started not with the first Sabres’ goal, but with the second. Jack Eichel (who fully deserved two of his three points on the night) was out at the blueline and slid the puck towards the net. It went in, and Jim Fox assumed (as many of us did) that there was a screen. Rick Jeanneret assumed (as the rest of us did) that it was tipped by Kyle Okposo. They were both wrong.

12 seconds later, another point shot was deflected in by 37-year-old Brian Gionta, and Jeff Zatkoff came in at the ensuing TV timeout. That’s when Eichel found space after the Sabres effectively lured the Kings’ defense out of the way and went post-and-in. Three straight shots, three straight goals. Budaj came back in for Zatkoff, which was a huuuuuge sign of Sutter’s lack of confidence in Jeff. (Unless Budaj had tweaked something and was feeling better, in which case, I take this all back.)

Muzzin and Martinez also had a “meltdown” of a game, as they were on the ice for five and four goals against, respectively. They got caught at the end of a long shift on the Ryan O’Reilly goal that made it 2-1, and they were on for Gionta’s goal, and the second Eichel goal, and the empty netter. Martinez at least got off the ice before Buffalo’s fifth, but Muzzin got stuck out at the goal line as Buffalo started their rush. He didn’t get back in time, and Evander Kane slammed Eichel’s pass past Budaj.

In defense of Muzzin...

So there’s that... it hadn’t happened before.

Some Kings had good nights, we swear. Carter again exerted his will on this game, converting a breakaway after a sublime Tyler Toffoli lead pass and later cutting Buffalo’s lead in half on a pinpoint wrist shot. Derek Forbort played over 20 minutes for the tenth time in eleven games, blocked four shots, and was effective on the game’s only penalty kill. Trevor Lewis high-sticked a guy but maintained his point-per-game pace in December. And Kopitar, thank heavens, got himself a goal.

Will it get better on Thursday? Who’s to say? At the very least, they get another chance to break an extensive road losing streak.