Kings @ Panthers Recap: LA Throws Away Two Points With Two Mistakes
LA puts forth the effort we know they're capable of, only to waste it with careless third period play.
The Los Angeles Kings were not eliminated from the playoffs with last night's defeat against the Florida Panthers.
I can't blame anyone for freaking out as if they were, though. Last night's 3-2 loss certainly felt much bigger than two lost points.
The Kings had played an effective road game (an effective game, PERIOD). They'd avoided getting themselves into trouble on the penalty kill, as they only went to the box once. Their power play had come through in a big spot. The LA defense, after a shaky start, was looking composed, and Jonathan Quick had bailed out the Kings for most of that shaky start. Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik, and Dustin Brown were the best line on the ice. In short, the Kings did all they needed to do to get an elusive road win. For that reason, it feels almost pointless to recap anything before the last third period of the game, but we'll do it anyway.
The Panthers got themselves three 2-on-1 breaks in the first period, and scored on one of them; Brad Boyes flipped a pass over the stick of a sliding Alec Martinez, and Aleksander Barkov went high on Quick. That followed a sustained, yet fruitless, period of pressure by the Kings, and a sustained, yet fruitless, period of pressure by the Panthers ensued. Florida was punished for their wastefulness by Jamie McBain's game-tying goal. McBain was put back in the lineup for his offensive punch, but that's generally manifested itself on the power play. This time, he unexpectedly contributed at even strength, firing a perfect shot off the inside of post with Kopitar screening Roberto Luongo.
The first line was on the ice for that one, and they continued to create chances through the second period. Kopitar and Brown each fluffed their best looks, though. Kopitar had a long rebound go right to his stick with a wide-open net but he couldn't settle the puck in time, while a nifty setup by Gaborik went into the skates of Brown, who was unable to get the shot off. The Kings weren't especially dominant, but they were pressing their shot advantage, and the only question was when they were going to take advantage.
They ended up needing a third period power play, but with Alex Petrovic sitting in the penalty box, Marian Gaborik had the Kings on top within eight seconds. Anze Kopitar faceoff win, Jake Muzzin shot, save, rebound, Kopitar pass, Gaborik goal. Easy. Not so easy? Holding that lead. They nearly got a very useful insurance goal when Nick Shore hit the post less than two minutes later, and after a Jake Muzzin mistake five minutes later, they regretted that missed opportunity. Ill-advised would be a kind description of Muzzin's blind, spinning pass, which went right onto the stick of Nick Bjugstad and ended up behind Quick.
Suddenly, we'd gone from feeling good about the chances of two points, to praying that the Kings could hold on to one and steal the second. They did neither, thanks to a bit of a fustercluck in their own zone. Robyn Regehr's pass out of the zone deflected off of Tyler Toffoli's stick, Jake Muzzin got tied up as the Panthers went the other way, and Toffoli made a rather passive backcheck on Brandon Pirri. Wrong guy to back off on; Pirri had scored in five of the previous six games, and he beat Quick short-side with 3:05 to go. The Kings got three shots on goal in the next 30 seconds, but none in the final 2:30, even after Quick was pulled for an extra attacker.
The Kings now need 41 points in their final 30 games to hit that magic number of 95 points. Seems further and further away after games like this one.