Kings @ Penguins Recap: LA Sunk By Special Teams in Pittsburgh
The Kings get themselves into early trouble and never recover.
Put the second-most penalized team in the NHL against the league's best power play. One of two things will happen:
- You'll have to kill penalties, and you will get lucky.
- You'll have to kill penalties, and you will fail./
The second one happened for the Los Angeles Kings in a 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Your final Corsi numbers at even strength: 42-25. So, overall, the Kings didn't play that badly! The problem is that you can pretty much throw those numbers out the window. The even strength shot attempts were 4-3 when Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead in the first, and from there, you'd expect the trailing team to get the bulk of the offensive zone time. The Penguins, to their credit, had exactly the right idea of how to handle a team missing two of their best offensive weapons. They pitted their best players against Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson (the two worst forwards on the Kings, possession-wise) and dared the rest of the Kings to score. They couldn't.
Darryl Sutter couldn't work any shuffling magic, especially with David van der Gulik and Andy Andreoff on the fourth line limiting his options. There were some odd ice time allotments - Dwight King getting nine minutes, Kyle Clifford getting more ice time than Mike Richards, Brayden McNabb getting just a shade over eight minutes - but it probably didn't have a huge effect on the outcome, because LA lost this one on special teams.
The Kings killed off Andreoff's early penalty and had a power play opportunity after Evgeni Malkin (who was enormously irritating today) slashed Jeff Carter, but Tyler Toffoli hooked Olli Maatta to nullify that. A Drew Doughty interference penalty 17 seconds after Malkin left the box meant a 5-on-3, and trouble. Kunitz tipped in Evgeni Malkin's shot-pass from the point, and the Kings were in trouble. I assume Darryl Sutter made a desperate plea for discipline, but five minutes later, there was Richards getting his stick up into the visor of Simon Despres, and there was Kris Letang putting a puck off the skate of King.
LA managed to kill two Penguins power plays in the second period, but the damage was done, as Marc-Andre Fleury was sharp enough to contend with what the Kings were throwing at him. Pittsburgh would score one more goal in the third period, with Sidney Crosby making a very Crosby-esque play to get from the corner to the net and collapse the defense, allowing Kunitz time to beat Martin Jones from a sharp angle. That was essentially game over, and Fleury came as close to scoring a goal in the final minutes (his empty-net attempt was short and wide) as the Kings did.
It'll be tough to go into Detroit and win after this one, but Jonathan Quick will be well-rested, and maybe some of today's less-used Kings (King, Richards, McNabb, and Pearson come to mind) can provide some jump tomorrow.