Still you rise.
Not bad as a theme, and it’s what the Kings are using this year before their playoff games. Thursday night, aside from the obvious hopes the team had that they might erase the debacle of the Flop on Figueroa, they hoped to rise to the occasion by tying their series with the Sharks.
It would happen only if the disciplined squad that had poured in goals from the blueline in game two and crashed the net early in game three showed up. It didn’t. Instead, the team saw the Sharks get out to a three-goal lead in the second period after neither scored in the first. It was not for lack of effort at mixing the lines by Coach Murray.
He used a steady combination of Williams, Smythe, and Stoll; another of Clifford, Richardson, and Simmonds; and then a couple of mix-and-match units which saw Ponikarovsky with Westgarth and Lewis as well as Lewis, Richardson, and Penner. Add to that Westgarth, Lewis, and Ponikarovsky. The second line, if you will, was Brown, Penner, and Handzus, but with the lack of production and effort of the middle of those guys, at times it was Brown, Handzus, and Stoll; and Brown, Handzus, and Ponikarovsky.
But nothing worked until the Sharks did what the Kings had two nights before and started sitting on their lead. The home team crawled back to 3-2 as the second frame ended. Their scoring to that point was Richardson and Williams, both getting their second of the playoffs.
Things unraveled after that. The Sharks scored three times in the third, two of the goals coming within about a minute of each other early. Their lead was 6-2 when a lot of Kings fans started heading for the exits. The home team got a goal late, an honest one by Ponikarovsky, but it was with seven to go, and they didn’t get all that close to erasing the deficit after that.
When it comes to what he said to the team after the loss, well, that’s just none of your business. When asked directly, Murray said, “Internal matter.” Period. Others were more forthcoming, as I’ll detail in a moment.
He did review the events of the game, citing the fact that his team had done well until the 3-2 score escaped them. “I really liked our compete coming back to make it 3-2. That was a good game. And then whatever happened in the third period. Giveaways, lost faceoffs, turnovers. That’s sometimes a hard [thing to take].”
He also cited what he called “a dangerous play. I hate that play. That’s a gutless move in my mind,” citing a slew foot by Dany Heatley late in the game. It got him a two minute penalty. “You just don’t do that in hockey. You didn’t thirty years ago, and you can’t get away with that today, and that should have been more than a two-minute minor. That’s a major. That’s a game misconduct.”
The players were less than morose after their win. More resolved. Justin Williams said, “We’re a team that’s struggling right now on the defensive side of the puck, and that’s not something we pride ourselves on. We’re a damn good hockey team, and we’re going to show that in game five.”
Unlike Murray, he was willing to comment on the post-game conversation. “Simply our accountability as a team [was discussed]. We can’t let each other down with the way we’re playing right now.” Meaning, that’s precisely what they are doing. He went on to say that the Kings need to play smart, doing it within the system. “Not allow twelve goals at home in the last two games.”
Murray, when asked about what he might do for next game, said, “I’m playing what I got. Let’s face it, Kopitar’s not coming back, guys. You play with what you’ve got. I can make some combination changes maybe. I’ve got Oscar Moller waiting on the sideline. He’d love to play. . . . Moller played very well up there in game two, I could think about that.”
When asked if he might replace the listless Penner, Murray said, “It’s not about any one player. It’s about maybe a change. Change is good sometimes. I’ll take a look at that tomorrow.”
Williams said that the team is frustrated, but that he and the others were glad that there’s another game coming. “Until then, we’ll be frustrated. Everybody cares about each other in here, but we’re not making the desperation plays we need to make right now to win hockey games.” He also cited mental mistakes.
Drew Doughty concurred, first praising goaltender Quick. But he said that the team hasn’t been helping the netminder. It’s more a matter of guys getting open backdoor. “We’re leaving Quicker out to dry, but he’s playing great.”
He said “It seems like we’re in games on some shifts, but then we’ll have bad shift and get down. We need to be consistent. Terry gave us a good speech. He’s not happy with us. All of us in here are not happy with each other either. Two games and twelve goals is something we never do. We’ve got to pick it up.”
Indeed, and the chance comes Saturday night.