The Kings miraculously carried a lead into the third period in a game that they had no business winning. The Kings saw the return of new winger Kris Versteeg, and Nic Dowd was a healthy scratch for the first time since joining the team. In the end, the officiating turned out to be one of the more interesting narratives of the day.
There's really no positive way to start this recap. In the first period, the Kings were out-attempted 33-12 at all strengths. Dallas also racked up 14 scoring chances at even strength alone. The good news is that the Kings proceeded to out attempt and out chance the Stars the rest of the game despite leading more than half of it (12-10 scoring chances, 41-35 attempts). The Kings were very fortunate to exit the first period with a score knotted at one goal a piece. On top of that, the Kings' goal in the first period (both goals, for that matter), was an extremely fluky shot from Tanner Pearson that appeared to catch just enough from a defender's stick to fool Kari Lehtonen and go top corner from far out.
One of the standout trends of the game, much to Jim Fox's dismay, was the officiating. Through the course of the game, there appeared to be no less than three missed high-sticking calls against the Stars. One of them was particularly egregious when an, on a clearing attempt, an errant stick from Radek Faksa caught Brayden McNabb near the eye, causing him to fall to the ice and later receive medical attention on the bench for a cut. Once, the Stars were whistled for a too many men penalty, only to have the call negated after the officials consulted. Finally, on the beginnings of a power play near the end of the second period, Drew Doughty was called for high-sticking on a play that showed Vernon Fiddler getting himself with his own stick to draw the penalty.
On one hand, Stars did outplay Kings. On other hand, Stars scored GWG a minute after this no-call pic.twitter.com/zK78kyzuFR— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) April 2, 2016
With that controversy out of the way, it's easy to say that it feels like the Kings are coasting toward the playoffs. Despite the return of Versteeg, Nick Shore hasn't played since the Kings clinched their playoff spot. What's more, even though this being a one goal or tie game the entire run, Drew Doughty played 27 minutes rather than his usual 30 plus in a tight game. Kopitar usually runs into the low 20's in these same scenarios, but he barely cracked 20 in the game. We also saw Scuderi paired with Martinez for a bit, which is after Darryl Sutter outright admitted he is loathe to part Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez. So, maybe the Kings are taking it a bit easy. Maybe they do prefer to finish second in the division to minimize travel in the first two rounds. Either way, it makes for some frustrating hockey when the team isn't living up to its potential, but I digress.
All in all, the Stars got a deserved win by outplaying the Kings over the course of the entire game. At their worst, the Kings could flat out not penetrate the zone and found themselves scrambling to keep up with the Stars' speed. The division title is still within reach, particularly given the poor strength of three out of the last four opponents. Though, a match-up against the Predators doesn't seem all that better than the Sharks given the Kings' last game against Nashville. Let's hope the Kings are back in form when the games really matter again.