Kings @ Sharks Recap: Frustrated, Tired, and Sloppy in San Jose
LA tries playing from behind for once. It doesn't pay off.
Look, there's no need to abandon the "the Los Angeles Kings are a good team" stance after one bad game. But when that one bad game is the last one before a week-long break... well, let's just say there's a bad taste in my mouth.
The San Jose Sharks triumphed 4-2, and in doing so, they forced LA into one of their worst efforts of 2015. If you didn't watch the game and simply clicked on that box score above, you might be misled. The Kings won the shot battle again! However, 16 of LA's 28 shots on goal were in the third period, 11 of them came after LA was already down two goals, and 8 of them came in the final five minutes. It's difficult to give the Kings too much credit beyond saying, "Well, at least they didn't give up." It was only due to some earlier acrobatics by Jonathan Quick (who played extremely well after allowing an early goal) that the Kings were even in position to make this a game late, though a late empty netter kept this from being LA's sixth one-goal loss in January.
On Quick: the poke-check attempt on Logan Couture's opening goal didn't work, but for the second game in a row, he was only put in that make-or-break position due to shoddy work by Alec Martinez. Martinez wasn't really flat-footed as Couture blew by him; more like he didn't really know what to do with his feet. Martinez would put Quick in a similar situation in the second period when his attempt to keep the puck in the offensive zone deflected down the other way, but Quick made a terrific save on Couture's ensuing breakaway. He pulled another one out of the hat on a Joe Pavelski deflection in the latter part of the second period, making a reflex save to keep the score tied (temporarily) at 1. He couldn't stop Marleau's tip on the power play two minutes later, but at that point, Quick was the last person to blame for LA's deficit.
Dustin Brown was the only King to score tonight, converting a wraparound with Antti Niemi flailing on the other side of the net. Brown actually had a half-decent game tonight, one of a handful of Kings forwards (Anze Kopitar, Nick Shore, and Kyle Clifford) about whom we can say that. Kopitar picked up two assists, Shore got his first NHL point and drew a penalty on a nice individual sequence, and Clifford led the Kings in both Corsi and face-punching. That makes Darryl Sutter's decision to use Shore, Clifford, and Jordan Nolan on a late power play slightly less baffling, right?
(It does not.)
Joe Pavelski scored a power play goal in the third which, given the way the Kings were playing, appeared to ice the game. Even the two-goal deficit didn't do much other than increase LA's frustration, with Drew Doughty (in the box for both of San Jose's successful power plays) leading the way. Most of the third period scrums fizzled out, with Brent Burns glove-punching Trevor Lewis and James Sheppard falling down repeatedly with three LA players pushing him. Entertaining, right? It all escalated until Joe Thornton inexplicably boarded Marian Gaborik with 32 seconds left, throwing the Kings a lifeline. Jeff Carter tipped in Kopitar's point shot almost immediately (Shore got the secondary assist), and the Kings even got an offensive-zone faceoff in the final 15 seconds. Wasn't enough.
The defensemen walk away angriest from this game. Doughty had the penalties and Muzzin shared his zone-time struggles; Regehr and Greene were helpless on Pavelski's goal; Martinez made his mistakes; and McNabb barely played in the second half of the game despite a goal-saving defensive play on Tomas Hertl, and despite it being his birthday. The other angry figure, of course, will be Darryl Sutter, who asked for a "work train" and didn't get it in this game.
Time for the Kings to recharge. In the meantime, stay tuned for All-Star coverage, and perhaps the occasional reminder that this slump won't last forever.