Kings @ Hawks Recap: LA Crashes Back Down to Earth in 3-1 Loss
It could have been much worse. It should have been much worse.
If the Los Angeles Kings' NHL-record streak of 18 games without allowing a first-period goal was going to end tonight, at least it ended with a bang!
This is the biggest positive I could take away from tonight's loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. That, and Ben Scrivens is still good at goalie-ing.
Not that there was that much hype for the season's first matchup between the last two Stanley Cup Champs, but Chicago made sure that this game wouldn't live up to said hype with a big first period. The Kings killed an early Kyle Clifford penalty and appeared to have an opportunity to grab the lead when Johnny Oduya got sent to the box. However, the penalty kill for Chicago cleared the puck, and Jake Muzzin raced Jonathan Toews to the puck in the Kings' zone. Now, look at this picture and try to figure out how things went so wrong...
Muzzin got to the puck, and Slava Voynov went to the other side behind Ben Scrivens to accept a pass. Only the pass never came; Toews engaged Muzzin at the boards and took the puck away. With Voynov stranded behind the net, Marian Hossa cruised to the front of the net and converted a pass from Toews for the shorthanded goal. The Kings' defensemen had hung Ben Scrivens out to dry, but they weren't done yet...
This looks innocent, too. Robyn Regehr pinches up to keep the puck in the zone with Tyler Toffoli, Mike Richards, and Kyle Clifford in the offensive zone. The only way this ends badly is if that puck gets past Regehr. Unfortunately, as soon as that happened, Kris Versteeg had a 2-on-1 with Michal Handzus the other way. Versteeg elected to shoot and beat Scrivens to make it 2-0 ten minutes in. Jarret Stoll's penalty with less than a minute to go meant more trouble...
Actually, the defensemen did all right on this one, as did the rest of the PK. That's Toews with the puck, and the Kings collapsed on him a bit while taking away his shot. Unfortunately, Toews made a great pass to the guy in the top corner with no one around, Patrick Sharp. Sharp fired and scored his eleventy billionth goal against the Kings. (actually, his 19th, in just 27 games.) The deflated Kings went to the locker room, and Scrivens probably encouraged his teammates while stewing privately.
The Kings' offense and defense didn't improve too much in the second, though they did at least manage ten shots after getting just six in the first. Then again, most of those were long-range wrist shots that didn't give Antti Raanta any trouble in the Chicago net. For example, even Jason LaBarbera could've stopped Trevor Lewis' long unscreened wrister entering the zone, and he was sitting on the bench! (rimshot)
Anze Kopitar had his team's best scoring chance near the end of the period, getting stopped twice with the Kings shorthanded. Raanta's outstretched leg stop on the rebound was his best of the night, and it matched a couple good saves by Scrivens on Patrick Kane at the other end. The rest of the period basically consisted of the Hawks cycling in the offensive zone and the Kings botching zone exits and missing on simple passes. You know, the things that happen when your team is doing poorly.
Scrivens was again great in the third period, turning aside another 15 Chicago shots while the Kings spun their wheels. Plenty of them were scoring chances, as Nick will happily explain to you in the upcoming game grades post. There were also at least three more 2-on-1 opportunities, including one that happened when Toffoli got picked clean and executed a perfect Dustin Brown clumsy fall...
Alec Martinez scored with four minutes left to break a shutout, after the fourth line worked the puck free in the offensive zone and Matt Greene passed across. Martinez took a quick shot which seemed to surprise Raanta, and at the very least, LA wasn't getting shut out. It was still a comprehensive beatdown for the Kings, who had managed to win five straight despite throwing in a couple subpar games. So much for revenge, eh? Anyway, don't freak out too much over this game, but it's clear that the Kings have some work to do on both ends before kicking off a fresh homestand on Tuesday.