As Bad As It Looked?

The game the LA Kings played against Pittsburgh last Saturday was reported here as being a loss, but not as big a failure as it might have looked like. It ended 3-2 in OT. Thursday with Vancouver in town, the score at the end was again 3-2, this time in regulation. And Coach Terry Murray said after that he liked some of what his guys did. But for much of the first period, there was nothing like the kind of fight the Kings had shown against the Pens.

“It’s very hard to dig out of a hole like that against a team that good. They were the President’s Trophy winner for a reason, and that, we couldn’t do it, bottom line.”

That was the coach’s assessment. He was talking about his team giving up two goals within a minute while killing a five-minute major and a two-minute minor on top. The first period saw the Kings manage only three shots, while Vancouver had 12 and added a third goal late in the frame at even strength. That wasn’t helped, obviously, by the penalties, which totaled ten minutes in the period, with a carryover minute to start the second.

Murray said it’s hard to get things back right after a hard, long kill.

“I’m using my top guys, and that’s hard work, when you get caught out there. Especially the way they [Vancouver] pass that puck around. On one stretch on that power play, you just can’t make a change. There’s no shots on net. The goalie can’t stop it. They’re just moving the puck around. A lot of anaerobic work, and that is fatiguing. When they do come back to the bench, I have to give them some extra time to recover, and that does throw a little wrench into everything.”

But things changed in the second. The Kings had a slow start, but from about the four-minute mark to the fifteen, they came alive. Kopitar, Gagne, and Williams nearly scored when the puck went whizzing past Roberto Luongo’s left pad, which was stuck firmly to the ice. A few shifts later, with LA on the power play, Mike Richards put the puck cross-ice to Kopitar, at the right side of the net. He slammed it at Luongo, who made another save.

Later in the same period, Kopitar took a shot and followed the puck to the net, and was hauled down on the way. Power play number two of the period. There would end up being three. On this one, the Kings capitalized, and they were evening up the shot total as well. It was a more reasonable 12 in the period, against 14 for the Canucks.

Every time one made it to the Vancouver net and was stopped, by the way, the “Luuu” cheer went up. The crowd was a sellout (a couple of nights ago, the team’s sellout streak of more than twenty games had been snapped), helped by fans wearing various eras of Canuck jerseys. They were still hanging around outside the arena long after the game, watching the people living in tents on the street. Whaaaa? This is LA, baby, those aren’t the homeless (they live a few blocks away, also in tent cities that go up every night and come down in the AM). These tent dwellers were Twilight fans who are prepared to camp out for the next few days waiting for the premiere of the new movie. (No, I don’t know what that means, and I don’t care any more than you. But it does lend atmosphere to the evening.)

The second period ended 3-1, only because Vancouver had a goal waved off. It came from the point, and Jannik Hansen skated across Jonathan Quick’s field of vision, but above the crease. However, he stuck out an elbow and knocked the goalie in the head with it. The referee was decisive in saying no goal.

Coach Murray commented on that after the contest, also.

“That’s part of a strategy that’s been part of the game forever, to get a goalie off his game, distract him. We talk about getting a net presence on the goaltender, screen him. Sometimes you get a bump, take a chance . . . . He’s [Quick] a big strong kid. That’s the way the game is, and he bounced back. He was fine.”

The Kings took things back in the third period, though their goal was not to come until about a minute left, with the goalie removed.

“I thought we were carrying the play in the third period, trying hard to get back into it. We got close, but it is too hard to turn the tables sometimes,” Murray said. He later added, “I just want the guys to go pack themselves in ice and bring back the same attitude” for Minnesota on Saturday evening.

“I liked what we were doing here, with the energy and moving our feet. It was a kind of a pissed-off attitude there, that we were down as early as we were and we had to get back. That’s kind of, the kind of attitude we need to play with all the time,” he finished.

The Kings had 30 shots in the game to Vancouver’s 32, but they also missed 16 versus nine for the opponent. Hits were about even and faceoffs also. One misleading stat (or improperly recorded one) indicated that Vancouver gave away 19 pucks while the Kings surrendered 14. In truth, the Kings were throwing pucks away all evening.

The last twenty seconds of the game, with Quick still pulled, saw the puck cross through Luongo’s crease at least twice. But for no luck in the bounces, it might have gone in. But if there was one other theme on the evening, it was that—the puck just wasn’t going LA’s way. Martinez whipped a pass to Williams in front in the second, but he couldn’t redirect it. Doughty took a slap shot in the third and Luongo gave up a huge rebound, but Stoll couldn’t quite get to it. It jumped over Williams’ stick again midway through the period.

About the bounces, he commented, “That happens, but sometimes the puck bounces onto your stick. We had our opportunities tonight [regardless].”

On the stat sheet, then, this game will remain frozen as a 3-2 loss. In fans’ memories, it will depend on what they think of to determine how history will appear. Those who think of the first period will recall an outmatched, under-performing team. Those who choose the latter frame to remember will picture a game that might have gone their way.

Kings Notes

Murray was pleased with his fourth line, which included two new faces—Trent Hunter and Colin Fraser. The former had played in five games earlier in the year with one assist. The latter came to the team from Edmonton for Ryan Smyth, but he was hurt at the time.

The Fourth Period magazine’s new issue is out now. Go to thefourthperiod.com to get a subscription or more info. It’s great—hockey, plus lifestyle stuff, plus more hockey.

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