Kings Are Easy Fare
The Kings seem to have found their lot in NHL life, at least for now.
There are teams that make the Stanley Cup playoffs by fattening up on those who don’t qualify. To date, the Kings have been the buffet.
The Detroit Red Wings added two points to their coffers Monday with a 3-1 victory at Staples Center that extended the Kings’ losing streak to three games.
The Red Wings received a batch of silver-platter moments, two of which Robert Lang turned into third-period goals. He caught goaltender Dan Cloutier by surprise to end a 1-1 tie, then converted a gaffe by the Kings’ Sean Avery into the game-clinching goal.
That left the Kings winless in four games against teams destined for the playoffs. Their only two victories came against bottom feeders, the St. Louis Blues and New York Islanders.
“We definitely have to start beating the so-called top teams of our conference in order to make the playoffs,” Cloutier said.
The wobbly start has had an effect at the box office. An announced 17,417 attended the game, which was heavily underwritten by Red Wings nation, a collection of transplants from Michigan and front-runners. While it was the second-largest announced crowd at Staples Center this season, it was the first time the Kings have failed to sell out a game against the Red Wings since the arena opened in 1999.
A few victories could solve some attendance woes.
This was the Kings’ best performance since opening night, but a few shaky moments translated into another loss. Lang made that possible with a shot from near the goal line that slipped through Cloutier 1 minute 37 seconds into the third period.
Lang then was handed a one-on-one Cloutier moment after Avery handed over the puck in the neutral zone. Lang’s wrist shot sewed things up with four minutes left.
This was also a familiar experience. The Kings have lost 11 consecutive games to the Red Wings, two in overtime.
“That’s the level we need to compete at,” defenseman Rob Blake said. “Those are the top teams in the league, and they have been for many years, and they continue to be. You kind of have to find your game and beat teams like that. It’s a learning experience for us.”
The Kings, for now, seem to have the cure to other teams’ woes. The Kings have certainly been fodder for those teams with Stanley Cup desires. They lost to the Ducks in the season opener and were handed bookend losses by the Dallas Stars on Thursday and Saturday. The Red Wings took their turn Monday.
The Red Wings came in with the NHL’s 28th-ranked power play. Yet, it was a power-play goal that gave them a 2-1 lead 1:37 into the third period. Lang seemed to catch Cloutier off guard when he whipped a shot from near the goal line, with the puck finding a way between Cloutier’s legs.
The Red Wings’ penalty-killing units were ranked 24th in the league. But not only did they hold the Kings without a power-play goal -- and without a shot on three power plays -- they scored short-handed to tie the score, 1-1, 9:44 into the second period.
Johan Franzen brought the puck into the Kings zone and passed just as he was planted into the ice by Blake. That opened up the left side, which was filled by the Red Wings’ Kris Draper, whose backhander easily beat Cloutier.
The Kings were scoreless on eight power plays and are five for 53 this season.
“We needed a better start and come out and get a lead,” Cloutier said. “I don’t know how many times we have come out and got the lead, not too many in last few games.”
The Kings did Monday. Aaron Miller brought the puck up ice and fired on net from just inside the blue line.
Avery and Anze Kopitar crashed the net, and Avery managed to tip the rebound past Chris Osgood 19:15 into the first period.