On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Willie O’Ree was honored as the first man to break the color barrier in hockey and dropped the puck. It was an amazing accomplishment to see and still no one looks better in a fedora than him.
Once the game started, it was a less-than-exciting afternoon as the LA Kings squared off against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are starting a six-game road trip while the Kings finish up a seven-game home stand.
Andy Andreoff drew into the game for an ill Anze Kopitar. Jon Rosen nearly sent everyone into a panic with his initial tweet before we realized the poor Slovenian was simply under the weather and not actually injured.
The game started off rather poorly. Peter Budaj stood tall in net and kept the score tied 0-0 as his team failed to register a single shot on goal in more than eight minutes of game time. But, then it seemed like the hockey gods were smiling on the Kings.
On a gift from Ben Bishop, Los Angeles took an early 1-0 lead when Kyle Clifford stripped the goaltender behind the net and slipped it past the 6’7 former Bear’s right skate before he could get back into position. This is quite possibly things in the hockey universe evening themselves out as Clifford hit two posts and somehow managed not to score against the Winnipeg Jets the other night.
With the faint hope that the Kings could potentially escape the period without giving up a goal, team structure completely broke down, abandoned Budaj, who by the way was great (again, as usual) in this game, and allowed Jonathan Drouin to send a slick pass to an awaiting, completely unmarked Tyler Johnson while the guys on the ice stood around and watched the puck.
Lightning striking at 5v5: TBL 23-14 Corsi, 13-4 Scoring chances, 3-3 High-danger. However, LAK 1.71 - TBL 1.12 xGF all situations— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 16, 2017
The game-tying goal was a microcosm of what was wrong with the Kings today and it had a lot to do with mental breakdowns and not playing as five-man units.
In the second period, ugliness came to play again as the team’s worst period and the worst timing in these periods haunted them when Brian Boyle, former LA King, scored for the Lightning, because, of course. Jake Muzzin seemed to have some kind of miscommunication with his defense partner, the forwards were of no help and Valtteri Filppula was not marked as he brought the puck beyond the goal line, trying to stuff it past a prostrate Budaj. It didn’t work and neither did Dustin Brown‘s attempt to play goaltender. Muzzin, who had been on the ground, overskated Boyle and Filppula and wasn’t able to get back in time. Boyle simply chipped the puck off of Brown for a 2-1 Bolts lead late in the second period.
Two defensemen planking is an uncommon and unpleasant sight pic.twitter.com/dRsevKfUFS— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 16, 2017
The same team that was frustrated with a lack of puck luck against the Jets is not the same team that showed up for matinee hockey. There was a serious, sometimes concerning, lack of cohesion as the team looked tired and jumbled and couldn’t figure out how to beat a Tampa team missing Steven Stamkos, J.T. Brown, Victor Hedman, Ryan Callahan and Brayden Point. Credit to the Bolts, who played a near-perfect road game while Kings looked surprised they were playing at all. Maybe a harsh criticism, but this team has had a frightening lack of consistency all season and once again, it hurts them as they barely cling to a second wild card spot.
Nashville is one point behind, is chomping at their heels and has a game in hand on Los Angeles. In order for this home stand not to be a complete bust, Kings will need to beat the San Jose Sharks in regulation, a tall order for a team that lacks much offensive punch.
The third period saw atrocious officiating with bad calls and worse non-calls. But going 0-for-2 on the man advantage with only three shots on goal in four minutes combined isn’t going to inspire much confidence that a late power play would do anything.
Tyler Toffoli won’t be re-evaluated for his injury until after the All-Star break in two weeks. The Kings hope to get Kopitar back from his illness on Wednesday.