Clinching a playoff spot would be a great time for a goal drought, wouldn't it? No, it wouldn't. It's never a good time, but at least the Kings are in a playoff position this time. The Kings are facing personnel challenges down the stretch that impact their roster, but at least the effort was certainly there for the Kings in their loss against the Wild.
The Kings have had a rough two days. They've lost both Kris Versteeg (foot) and Tanner Pearson (personal reasons, hope everything is ok Tanner) from the lineup, and they've both been impact players as of late. Their effort against Nashville was smothered until they trailed by three goals in the third period. Even after their third period push, they were heavily out-chanced and only just drew even on shot attempts after it was all said and done. Things were bound to be different against the Wild though - I'm sure we all thought. Things were different, but the result was much the same. Still, it's a type of loss that the last couple of seasons has conditioned us to take.
Second loss for LA in 2015-16 while taking 35+ shots and allowing 20 shots or fewer. NHL record: seven, set by the 2013-14 Kings. Progress!— Eric (@EricJFTC) March 23, 2016
The Kings started this game off on a positive note. Nic Dowd made his NHL debut and drew a penalty his first shift. The Kings looked great on the power play and were able to get a lot of shots on net, and they also maintained possession for solid chunks of time. The desired result wasn't there, but things looked up for the rest of the period. That was all until Erik Haula charged out of the penalty box and was able to skate unchecked through the slot. His backhand beat Jonathan Quick and the Kings were already staring down a deficit.
The rest of the period consisted of the Kings pelting Devan Dubnyk with shots to no avail. After the end of one period, the Kings had outshot the Wild 14-3 and had nothing to show for it. When you look at shot attempts, it was even worse. The Wild only had four all period. Those numbers even include two power plays, which the Wild attempted no shots on. The Kings' total was 23, which goes to show how tilted the ice was. Over the course of the game, things didn't get much better for the Wild. They ended up being outshot 39 to 18 and out attempted 74-32. The Kings also more than doubled the scoring chances the Wild managed, a feat the Predators achieved on them the night prior. So, while it was a very different and improved effort from the Kings, they got the same result.
The hole only got deeper for the Kings when the Wild got a power play goal early in the second to extend their lead. Mikko Koivu made a nice move to get Jake Muzzin to commit to a shot block, allowing the veteran to simply skate around him and pick his shot. Thankfully, the Kings finally got a break in the middle of the period when Tyler Toffoli got enough space for a perfectly placed snap shot in the high slot. This put the Kings back within one and gave them a shot at tying.
The tying goal was nowhere to be found, unfortunately. The best chance came in the third period when a loose puck in the crease just couldn't get the help it needed to the back of the net. Nick Shore spotted the puck, but Dubynk's glove beat Shore's stick to the spot. Thankfully, the contest was enough to knock the puck loose, giving Jake Muzzin a chance in close with a flailing goaltender. To cap off Jake's night, Dubynk's desperation save worked, and the Kings would never come that close again.
There were some positives on the night, though mostly not of the Kings' doing. The Sharks and Ducks both lost in regulation, meaning the loss cost them nothing in the standings. The Stars did win against Chicago if you care about Wild Card matchups, however. It was also a nice debut for Nic Dowd. He was on the ice for the lone goal on the night, and he was the only King better than 50% in the faceoff dot. Sutter seemed to like his play, too, giving him over 12 minutes of ice time compared to Shore's paltry 8:15 (Shore's linemates were both under seven minutes, so it's not necessarily an indict of Shore).
Going forward, the Kings' schedule gets a bit easier for a while. They should also hope to get a few players back from injury as well. I'm sure things will be just fine.