Kings @ Stars Recap: Kings Squander Early Chances
Poor play early subdues a strong effort from the Kings
After failing on a series of power plays to open the game, it felt inevitable when the Kings conceded the first goal to the Stars.
And the second.
...And the third.
It wasn't like the Kings played downright bad hockey. After the 1st period, 5-on-5 possession was reasonably close. With that said, the Kings' gaffes were enormous and Jonathan Quick couldn't quite bail them out as Kari Lehtonen did for the Stars at the other end of the ice.
The Kings had chances -- three power plays and perhaps most notably a Tanner Pearson breakaway -- but simply couldn't sneak one past the Stars' netminder. Dallas entered the first intermission up by 3 goals; rookie defenseman John Klingberg notched one while Jamie Benn scored the other two.
The Kings used the break to regroup, create a clean slate, and prepare to fall down by a fourth goal. Lehtonen again frustrated the Kings by setting up a Tyler Seguin breakaway with a beautiful outlet pass. Seguin then squeezed a shot between Jonathan Quick's legs to make it 4-0.
Thankfully, turnabout is fair play. The Stars failed to score on a pair of power play opportunities of their own, and Tanner Pearson immediately broke the ice for the Kings by burying a rebound into an empty net to make it 4-1.
On their fourth power play of the night, the Kings finally cashed in. Brayden McNabb fired a shot from the point and Kari Lehtonen spat out another bad rebound. Justin Williams was able to bury the puck into the gaping net this time, and the Kings made it a 2-goal game.
Though the Kings had clawed their way back into the mix, Robyn Regehr seemed determined to put a stop to things. With the Stars threatening, Regehr was beaten to the net by his man and was forced to interfere. He was sent to the box and the Kings were forced to contend with the Stars power play yet again.
Unfortunately, the Stars' freshly-acquired defenseman Jason Demers delivered a devastating blow to the Kings' chances by notching his first goal with his new team. He ripped an unscreened, untipped slapshot from the point that beat Quick up high.
The Kings staggered...but steadied themselves.
A short time later, Mike Richards led a 2-on-1 rush into the Stars zone. After drawing the Stars defenseman to the ice in an attempt to block the pass, Richards cut closer to the goal line to try and create a better angle. Though his pass was blocked, the redirected puck slid straight between Lehtonen's legs to draw the Kings back within 2 goals.
A wild 2nd period finally came to a close following yet another Kings' flurry in the offensive zone. Though the Kings came close to making it a 1-goal game in the waning seconds of the period, it ended with a score of 5-3.
In the 3rd period, the Kings controlled the flow of possession, but it took over 10 minutes for them to notch their fourth goal of the evening. Following a TV timeout, Justin Williams corralled another weak Lehtonen rebound, and then found a hole...somewhere in the netminder's body to net his second goal of the evening. With the score now at 5-4, the Kings finally had made this one a real hockey game.
Unfortunately, less than 2 minutes later, Tanner Pearson took a crosschecking penalty right in front of the Kings' bench. Backs firmly against the wall, the Kings not only withstood the Stars' power play, but forced Ales Hemsky to take an infraction of his own just 7 seconds before Pearson's penalty had expired. Unfortunately, the Kings were not able to capitalize.
The push was now officially on. The Kings searched frantically for a goal. With less than 2 minutes left, they iced four forwards and just one defenseman with Mike Richards playing the role of the second point-man. The Kings won the draw back to him, but he fired a shot directly into a Stars forward. Play immediately shifted the other way, and Jeff Carter was then forced to take a slashing penalty on the backcheck to prevent a quality scoring chance.
This effectively served as the dagger the Stars needed. Though the Kings were able to mount a tiny bit of pressure and were even able to get Quick pulled to return the game to a 5-on-5 state, the Kings just didn't quite have enough in the tank to complete the comeback. Perhaps undeservedly so, the Stars sealed off a 5-4 victory.
The Kings were not undone by poor play overall, but by series of egregious errors and some (rare, at least this season) shaky goaltending from Jonathan Quick. They responded to adversity without pouting about it and turned in a strong effort overall. Though the Kings lost, they turned in a dominant, albeit score effects-aided possession performance and were mere bounces from at least 1 point, if not 2. This is the way hockey goes sometimes, and the Kings don't have a ton of reason to be down on themselves.