The Kings welcomed forward Kyle Clifford back to the lineup last night against the Ducks following his head injury courtesy of Victor Hedman early last December. Kyle Clifford's helmet visor also made its NHL debut, hopefully to prevent further injuries to the physical forward. It's a shame the team couldn't welcome him back with a win, because he was arguably one of the best forwards on the ice for the Kings all night.
If you've not heard us complain about the defensive play of Vincent Lecavalier yet, get prepared for the pre-recorded messages. Multiple turnovers and lack of transitional speed gifted the Ducks with several odd man chances, and they had the good fortune of burying the early ones. The first came when Vinny failed to control the puck leading to a break the other way. Ryan Getzlaf scored his first even strength goal of the year on a perfectly placed shot in the top corner of the net.
The second goal against was yet another unfortunate break when the backcheck of Marian Gaborik sent David Perron to the ice on his backside. Getzlaf merely had to pass into the heap of sliding bodies for it to be carried into the goal riding Perron's skates. The third goal came early into the third when laziness in the neutral zone allowed Ryan Garbutt to enter the zone with speed. Yet another shot was placed perfectly in the far upper corner of the net, and the game began to look out of reach for the Kings.
Luck must have felt sorry for the Kings though, as a penalty a few minutes later would allow a Drew Doughty shot to ricochet off the calf of Tyler Toffoli and simply float into the net over an unaware John Gibson. Toffoli has certainly had his share of weird luck this year, and he now finds himself tied with his goal total from all of last season (which is a career high for the young forward).
Over your head pic.twitter.com/A2ci4CTrv4— LA Kings (@LAKings) February 5, 2016
The Ducks' fourth goal would arrive just five minutes later when Jhonas Enroth, who had come in to relieve Quick after his three goals on nine shot start, was heavily screened on a Hampus Lindholm shot. While his name is probably a department store in some alternate universe, in this dimension he once again put the Kings out of realistic contention. It was simply an ugly second that would need a monumental shift in the third for the Kings to have a hope of recovery.
Ugly period for the Kings, who were out-shot 15-4 and now trail 4-1 through 40.— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) February 5, 2016
The Kings certainly did make a push in the third, but it merely felt like score effects playing themselves out. When Kyle Clifford is one of your best players on the ice, you know something has gone awry. It wouldn't be surprising if this game stood as a statement moment for Lecavalier's decline in usage. His line was heavily outchanced and outattempted, and his lack of transitional speed was put on glaring display in this game.
None of this is to take away from the good hockey the Ducks have been playing lately, and the Kings look to be on the edge of losing their division lead for the first time since gaining it early in the season. They finally have a fully healthy team, and a tweak in player usage could do potentially help the team. Let's try putting the Shore boy back as third center for starters, Darryl.