Waking up with the Kings: April 10
-In the three games prior to last night’s loss to the Dallas Stars, the Los Angeles Kings had limited their opponents to four regulation goals, outshot their opponents by an average of 30.3 to 23 and surrendered only a pair of even strength goals. They were coming off a strong all-around performance in Anaheim on Sunday that led Darryl Sutter to state the next day that “If we play the play the way we’re playing, we’ll continue to get points and get closer to a playoff spot.” So what happened on Tuesday in a comprehensively disappointing performance in which Dallas broke a 1-1 tie with four third period goals to engineer a completely deserved result?
-A poor start set the tone for a pair of uneven periods that didn’t see Los Angeles establish any semblance of consistency in its play until late in the second period. Though the Kings took an early first period lead on a Drew Doughty goal set up by terrific puck movement during the first half of the double-minor to Loui Eriksson, Quick was called upon to make the more difficult saves than Kari Lehtonen and Richard Bachman through the first 40 minutes of the game. Quick was most of what stood between a tied game and a game that could have gotten out of hand early; the Kings rhythm was disrupted by a hard-working Stars team that forechecked efficiently and forced Los Angeles into committing a disproportionate number of turnovers. The Kings’ puck possession and offensive zone time strengths were neutralized by a team known for its lunchpail work ethic, and it was fitting that the grinding line of Erik Nystrom, Vernon Fiddler and Erik Cole was rewarded for its hard work.
-After 25 and a half minutes of effective play in the shootout loss to Anaheim, Robyn Regehr had his first rough night as a Los Angeles King as a pair of his attempts to pass the puck out of the zone in the third period resulted in turnovers and ended up on the scoreboard. The veteran shouldered the blame for Dallas’ third and fourth goals, saying, “My two plays there directly were responsible in two goals against, and you just can’t have that, not in a very tight hockey game like that where you’re just battling for every single chance that you can get.” Regehr also had several quality hits, including one in open ice during a Stars power play early in the third period in which he effectively separated Fiddler’s body from the puck, to put it mildly.
-I’m not sure if it was adequately expressed above, but Jonathan Quick was excellent for two periods on Tuesday, and appeared en route to earning one of the game’s three stars before the team’s third period breakdowns. He didn’t receive a lot of help, leading to Dustin Brown’s postgame defense of his goaltender. “We let our goalie down for sure tonight,” Brown said. “He’s one of those guys that’s been there for us over the last three years.” Despite the crooked finality of the game, Quick’s performance was an encouraging sign for a team that will need similar performances over the remainder of the schedule and into the playoffs if it is to mount an effective defense of its Stanley Cup title.