After a three game losing streak and only one regulation win since defeating the Boston Bruins in a buzzer-beater on October 28, the Kings needed to change their strategy, and they came out hitting tonight. The Bruins, entering the game, had 77 man-games lost to injury, with six players currently injured. And they were on the second game of a back-to-back, losing to the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on Wednesday.
It was a chess match to begin. Jonathan Quick was up to task, stopping a shot in front of the net. Then Drew Doughty fed the puck to Alex Iafallo but the shot went off the side of the net.
Jussi Jokinen made his Kings debut with a shot from the high slot, but it was saved by Anton Khudobin. He also drew an interference penalty. Later, a clean breakout by Adrian Kempe, who dropped the puck to Tanner Pearson, was saved by Anton Khudobin. Then Quick juggled a shot by Tim Schaller off his body, to his stick, and to his glove.
But after a Kings icing, Charlie McAvoy took the puck off the faceoff and walked in along the right boards, to the front of the net, for his first goal of the season. Pearson lost his man, and no one was there to cover McAvoy down low.
The Kings were outshot 8-5, but outhit the Bruins 21-12.
The Kings came out firing with several shots, with Iafallo as catalyst. It drew a penalty by McAvoy for high sticking.
Then a bone-crushing open ice hit by Christian Folin on Danton Heinen led to a penalty by Patrice Bergeron for retaliating:
On the power play, Jokinen stretched to straddle the blue line, and received a pass by Anze Kopitar. Jokinen sent the puck back up high to Doughty for his first goal since October 21. It also extended Kopitar’s point streak to ten games. Could this be the play that changes the momentum for the Kings?
Alas, it was not. A few minutes later Bergeron took another penalty to stop the streaking Iafallo, but the penalty was killed beautifully.
Ugh, how many times this season has Andy Andreoff received the puck in front of the net but failed to score?? Then after the Kings blocked and disrupted several Bruins power play chances, including a precarious rebound in front of an open net, a slap shot by the 40-year-old Zdeno Chara, whose surname we pronounce incorrectly, deflected off the stick of Trevor Lewis for a 2-1 lead.
In the waning minutes, the Kings established the forecheck against a tired Bruins team. They kept the puck alive in the offensive zone, but fanned on too many chances. They shot a lot, but most of the time there was not enough traffic in front of Khudobin to challenge him.
It felt like last year’s Kings—physical Corsi play, but with no goals to show for it.
It was First Responders Appreciation Night. The Kings honored the first responders of the Las Vegas shooting with a 58-second moment of silence. Then in an interview, assistant coach Dave Lowry insisted on continuing with the physical game.
A hard hit on Nick Shore, and a high-sticking minor by Andreoff, led to more agitation by the Kings. The Kings fortunately killed the penalty, because at this anemic pace, a power play goal would make the game feel out of reach.
After some out-of-sync play, all of a sudden a yo-yo stick move by Muzzin led to a shot by Lewis and a rebound for Shore who could not convert.
The last ten minutes featured out-of-sync Kings breakouts that did not threaten. There were few odd-man rushes, if any. With 6:30 left, the Kings had only four shots on goal in the period, and fans were losing their patience. They could not even establish the Corsi game of yesteryear. A tip by Brown with 3:20 left was stopped by Khudobin—the first quality chance for the Kings in a long time.
But that would be the Kings’ last chance. While trying to stay in the offensive zone and falling, Jokinen tripped Riley Nash for a penalty with less than two minutes remaining, and that was all she wrote.
The Kings managed only five shots in the first and third periods. After scoring six against the Columbus Blue Jackets and another five against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Kings have now lost four straight games, averaging only 1.5 goals in those games. The Kings have also lost three straight one-goal games. To make matters worse, the Vegas Golden Knights trail the Kings by only one point for the Pacific Division lead. Below Vegas, three Pacific teams circle the waters trailing Los Angeles by four points, including the San Jose Sharks.
Depth still remains an issue for the Kings. Though we like Iafallo for his catalyst role in all 18 games so far, he only has 1 goal and 6 assists. Shore, after 16 games, only has 2 goals and 2 assists. And Kempe, who was touted as the replacement of Jeff Carter after scoring 6 goals in 5 games, has only 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 8 games.
Was the hot 11-2-2 start just a flash in the pan? Were the pundits right, and the Kings have not improved that much after all? Moreover, is a trade of Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez for a scoring forward in the works (sorry Robyn)?
Notes: Brooks Laich was scratched. His future may be in the rocks with the acquisition of the versatile Jokinen, who can also play center. Oscar Fantenberg was also scratched in favor of the heavy-hitting Folin.