After the 9-2 win against Boston, I joked. "That was easy to watch."
This was not.
Much like the very beginning of the game against Boston, the Kings started things on the wrong foot. One early neutral zone turnover by Milan Lucic and the Isles were off to the races.
The 1-0 lead was short-lived, but for all the wrong reasons. Just five minutes later, the Isles made it 2-0 when Casey Cizikas found himself with an easy put-back into an empty net.
Then, the 2-0 lead was even shorter-lived. Nick Leddy unleashed a laser beam with eyeballs. It found a perfect lane through traffic and into the back of the net. In the span of about eight minutes, the Islanders had opened up a
can of whoop ass 3-0 lead.
The 2nd period was less disastrous, but still not good. Despite the valiant effort of Kyle Clifford to bring the Kings within a pair of goals, the Kings would concede a fourth goal a short time later. John Tavares sniped the corner with a perfectly placed shot to beat the beleaguered Jhonas Enroth and make it a 4-1 score.
Through two periods, not much had been fun. The Kings had moments of...competitiveness. Not even moments of greatness, just moments when they seemed a step ahead of awful. They never were able to assert themselves and control the game as we've seen them do so well over the years. They'd taken bad penalties, they'd taken unnecessary penalties, and Kevin Gravel isn't the kind of exciting rookie that makes this kind of game more watchable. We didn't even have Jon Quick to get angry and break things!
The Kings had just 20 minutes to make this one a contest, and it took them 10 of those to get things on any sort of route toward a comeback. Milan Lucic clipped Jeff Carter's rebound with his skate, and was barely able to brush the puck with his stick prior to it crossing the goal line. Lucic's 14th goal of the season made it a 4-2 game with half a period remaining.
That goal, for a time, served as the lightning bolt that woke Frankenstein's monster. Sensing their moment, the Kings pushed. At the same time, the Isles dropped back into what Jim Fox termed "prevent defense." The Kings, both due to being the Kings and the situation calling for it, were suddenly the Kings again. If nothing else, it was reassuring to see, even despite the fact that score effects would dictate such a resuscitation. With six minutes remaining, the Kings had finally evened the total on the shot clock.
Then, the Kings got an odd call in their favor. After a Doughty slash fractured Nikolai Kulemin's stick, Kulemin was penalized for playing the puck with his bent twig. A rare and unusual call, but an opportunity for the Kings. With a minute and a half left in the power play, Darryl Sutter pulled Enroth to make it a 6-on-4 advantage for the Kings. The game was afoot.
Unfortunately, the tide of the game swung one last time on busted-down play. After a wild scramble, Alec Martinez tried to force the puck in deep, but he couldn't get his shot through. Travis Hamonic wildly slung the puck out of the zone, and it just happened to bounce and roll perfectly into the empty net.
It's not an effort that I'd call valiant by any stretch, but the Kings gave it a run. At the same time, it was a perplexing performance following the nearly literal decimation of the Boston Bruins. The front half (maybe even front two-thirds) of this game was a sloppy mess fit for pigs to eat, not for Kings to play.
They'll be in tough tomorrow night against the Rangers. It will be their third game in four nights, all on the road. Fortunately, they were rested heading into this stretch. They've actually been excellent on the back half of back-to-backs this season, so we'll see if they can recreate the magic in a little less than 24 hours.