Kings’ loss yields a teachable moment
This was another example of patient parenting.
Coach Terry Murray has had his share of those moments this season. But the things that may one day make the Kings a quality hockey team are still to be taught to them.
Calgary handed out the NHL life lesson Saturday night in a 3-2 victory over the Kings at Staples Center.
Everything was in place for a feel-good victory. The Kings spotted the Flames a 2-0 lead, then scrapped back, getting two goals from 19-year-old Oscar Moller, the second tying the score with six minutes left.
That schoolboy giddiness dissipated quickly. Todd Bertuzzi brushed off the Kings’ Anze Kopitar like a gnat and fed the puck to Daymond Langkow for the game-winning goal with three minutes left.
“You cannot teach your team or your players how to win,” Murray said. “You can teach them how to dig in, play hard, and how to play a system. But actually finding out how to get the job done is something they have to go through themselves.”
In other words, kids will be kids, and for the most part Saturday, the kids were all right.
The Kings, the third-youngest team in the NHL at the start of the season, played with a frenzy on the power play the final 1 minute 41 seconds. They peppered goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who made two big saves to preserve the Flames’ sixth consecutive victory.
“We play like that every night and we’re going to win a lot of games,” Murray said.
The Kings outshot Calgary, 36-21, and outworked the Flames for the most part. But they still saw their losing streak stretch to four games.
“These are growing pains,” team captain Dustin Brown said. “You look at Calgary, that’s a team with a lot of experience. They know how to win games like that, and it showed tonight. They did not have their best game tonight, but they found a way to win. We need to be that team.”
The Kings, with 17 players on the roster who are 26 or younger, could become that team. But the franchise has had young players before, many currently residing in where-are-they-now category.
They were the young and far-from-restless in a 4-0 loss to Vancouver on Thursday. The effort pendulum swung the other way Saturday.
“We’ve done a really good job battling back in a lot of games this year,” Murray said. “We’ve come back and had great third periods, tied games, won games, gone to overtime to win. But the other night against Vancouver, it seemed like we were having a tough time mentally digging in. We talked about it.”
Moller, among others, seemed to have heard the message. Instead of being in Chilliwack, Canada, playing in the Western Hockey League, he was in the right spots at the right times for the Kings.
A pinball-like goal by Eric Nystrom and a power-play goal by Adrian Aucoin gave the Flames a 2-0 lead, a seemingly sure thing with Kiprusoff in net.
Then Moller fired a cross-ice pass that went off the skate of Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf and into the net, cutting the Flames’ lead in half 12:28 into the second period. After the Kings’ Jarret Stoll and Alexander Frolov did the dirty work to get the puck from behind the net, Moller tied the score with a wrist shot from the slot.
“Yeah, it was probably a good thing they kept him, eh?” goaltender Jason LaBarbera said. “He’s a goal scorer. He’s done it his whole life.”