The LA Kings took on the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins at Staples Center in front of a sell out crowd. The Kings have not been playing too well as of late even dropping to 4th place in the division behind Vegas, Calgary and San Jose. The inconsistency has shown up quite a bit. While they lead the NHL in goals against average at 2.43 and penalty killing at 87%, they are 15th in scoring and 21st in power play efficiency. Besides their top 3 scorers of Kopitar, Brown and Toffoli, they have nobody else with more than 8 goals. They are badly missing Jeff Carter, who has been injured since the start of the season. They are hopeful to get him back and get some scoring from others to get them higher in the standings as they are sitting in a wild card spot at this time.
The Penguins are led by popular Sydney Crosby (a multiple MVP and Stanley cup champion). They are loaded with offensive power with Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Hornqvist, Phil Kessel to name a few. They have been struggling this year after losing goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to Vegas in the expansion draft and staring goalie Matt Murray going down to injury. The team lost to Anaheim the night before.
In this game, Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead early in the first on a bad goal given up by Quick from a far wrist shot by Hornqvist. Adrien Kempe scored his 14th goal of the season on a great lead pass by Kopitar to tie the game at 1-1 as that is how the second period ended. Casey Desmith had the Kings stoned till then. The big scorers for Pittsburgh were quiet so far. LA has outshot the visitors 19-17 after 2 periods.
But in the third period, the Kings gave up another early goal in the first minute when Malkin found a rebound and knocked it home for a 2-1 lead. The next big play in the game happened with Dustin Brown getting a 5 minute major penalty for boarding which not only got him ejected but gave the Penguins an auto 5 min power play. The Kings were doing well on the penalty kill till the last minute and a half when Crosby found Hornqvist on the right side and he beat Quick to give the visitors a 3-1 commanding lead. 2 more penalties at the end of the game pretty much finished any chances for a late rally.
I asked Coach Stevens in the post-game interview if he thought the team was pressing and that led to them playing undisciplined.
He replied, “I don’t know if I would call that a lack of discipline as Brown is about as an honest player there is. Penalties were called. I didn’t like the call. Kopitar brings his stick down. They are the 2 most disciplined guys in the league and the last call was a really bad call. No update on Carter as I inquired how he was and he said, “status quo as he is still rehabbing.”
He also said, “The first early goal was tough and then we start chasing the game. The thing about hockey when you are playing catch up, it takes a lot of energy. We played better tonight and created some chances but the soft goals and penalties got us in trouble. We cannot have any weak links in the chain. We didn’t execute around the net with some quality chances. I thought we were getting the power play on Brown’s hit but I really didn’t see it. We have to get ready for tomorrow”
During Brown’s interview about his game misconduct penalty and the team’s slide, He said “I’m going to close on him and he stumbles, toe picks. I don’t drive him through the wall or anything, but I also close in on the play. At the most it’s probably a two [minute penalty] I think. We are still in a good spot, playoff spot. It is important to realize that and turn the corner. It has been tough. It is frustrating to lose 5 straight and we are in the playoffs still. That is the main goal. We are still fighting for a spot with 35 games left.”
Drew Doughty expressed his frustration in the post game interview saying, “Yeah. We’re obviously pretty down on ourselves right now. We want to turn it around as soon as we possibly can and that will start tomorrow night. At times, I thought we deserved better tonight and could have won that game, but obviously we didn’t. There’s not things that we need to blame it on, just individually we all need to pick it up in here and come together as a team and win a hockey game.”
PENGUINS HEAD COACH MIKE SULLIVAN:
“I thought Case [DeSmith] was terrific. He made some big saves for us, especially in that first period to give us an opportunity to get our legs underneath us. He played a solid game throughout.”
CASEY DESMITH – Penguins goalie on His First NHL win, he said, “I played two games already this season, but [they were] tough situations to come into, especially for a goalie. You never want to come in to a game where you’re down 3-0 or 5-0. To get this start was huge; to be able to have a good first period and kind of build confidence as the game went on, I think it was a really good road win for the team. We were solid defensively and buried when we had the chances.”
SIDNEY CROSBY said after closing well last night vs. the Ducks and taking that into tonight ,“They [the Kings] were coming pretty hard. I think we just stayed patient and found a way to not let it turn against us where we’re down two [goals] after one [period]. We found a way to hold the lead and had a really good second and end up tied after two. It’s kind of weird the way it works sometimes, but I thought we had a really good third given its back to back nights. We had to try to get back at last night’s game too; that can take some things out of you too. We found a way to have a great third and get a big win. Our goalie was very poised and he had normal preparation tonight and played very well tonight.”
Next up are the Ducks on a back to back game for the Kings in Anaheim so they will be really tested. More at www.nhl.com/kings