-With the end result not as important as avoiding injury and returning to Los Angeles healthier than when they stepped off the plane in Vancouver, the Kings lost a frustrating 2-1 game to the Canucks in which their recent proclivity to surrender leads raised more alarm than any questionable judgments made the officials. In their last 13 games, the Kings have allowed game-tying goals in the third period six times. Of the seven games in which they did not surrender a third period lead, they were unable to hold on to a two-goal lead against Toronto, allowed two quick Pittsburgh strikes that erased a two-goal second period lead, and failed to capitalize on a second period lead in San Jose. This is an immediate turnaround from a team that had established itself as perhaps the best third period team in the league and one of the most difficult NHL teams to come from behind against. This is still the regular season, and it’s natural to believe once the games begin to matter once again that these late-season swoons will be little more than historical footnotes in the 2013-14 season. For the sake of the record books, the Kings will need to win two of their final three games to set the franchise wins mark, an opportunity that hasn’t been helped by this recent stretch.
After a quiet and uneventful 30 minutes took place without incident, the game turned into an overofficiated display of special teams time that curiously ended abruptly when Alex Edler sent Marian Gaborik to the ice three strides after the Kings forward had chipped the puck off the boards into the offensive zone, one minute prior to Brad Richardson’s game-winning goal. The puck was 15 feet away from Gaborik when Edler was not whistled for what was textbook interference. Though there were no dividends to be paid from the game, try explaining that to Jonathan Quick, whose two-handed slam of his goalie stick on the crossbar was a fine illustration of his competitive nature and desire to win every game regardless of any surrounding circumstances. In a game that had no bearing on anything, save for the team’s ultimate standing in its record books, that’s a completely acceptable outpouring of emotion.
Though the Kings would have liked to have had a late third period power play, Vancouver was the better team on Saturday night after Los Angeles opened with a strong 20 minutes. The Kings were out-shot 29-14 over the final 40 and while the scoring chances were much narrower, they still appeared to be slightly in favor of the home side.
It was a classy move by the players to have Andrew Campbell lead the team onto the ice and take a pair of laps on the fresh sheet before they joined him for warm-ups. I was on the bench when this happened, and Campbell – who let out a few yells as he skated – had a huge smile that barely eclipsed the one that Jonathan Quick flashed as he watched him. Congratulations to Campbell, who was also featured on Hockey Night in Canada, for debuting after 444 regular season and playoff games with AHL-Manchester. The pace of the game was a challenge to adjust to, but he was fine. On his first shift he blocked a centering pass during a late-developing two-on-two Vancouver rush, and though he was on the ice for Richardson’s goal, the game-winner came as the result of a fortunate chip by David Booth right onto the stick of an oncoming, unmarked Zack Kassian, who fed over to the right circle to Richardson.