Kings get the point a little late
The scrums after nearly every whistle, the teeth-rattling checks that sent helmets flying -- those were subtle signs of the passion that simmered between the Kings and Edmonton Oilers on Saturday at Staples Center.
The real indication of the fevered emotional pitch came when Terry Murray, the Kings’ normally unflappable coach, pumped his fists in the air after Dustin Brown’s deflection tied the score with 26 seconds left in regulation time.
It came from Murray again later in the form of a long face and rueful tone after the Kings lost in a shootout, 3-2.
This was a game they could have won -- should have won -- if they had mustered some energy in the first period.
Instead, the Oilers scored on two of their first three shots on Jonathan Quick, slick passing plays finished off by Dustin Penner at 4:58 and by Shawn Horcoff at 13:11 during a power play, and the Kings had to chase them the rest of the way.
“I think the first period wasn’t the scenario we were trying to put on the table,” center Anze Kopitar said.
Not hardly, even though they eventually caught up.
Drew Doughty used Michal Handzus as a screen and blasted a long slap shot past Dwayne Roloson during a two-man advantage at 6:29 of the second period and Brown tipped home an Alexander Frolov shot with Edmonton’s Andrew Cogliano in the penalty box and Quick replaced by an extra skater.
But they were stopped there, short of the second point they so urgently needed, when Roloson stymied Patrick O’Sullivan and Frolov in the shootout and Quick was beaten by Sam Gagner high and Robert Nilsson on a backhander low.
“We needed to have a better start. That was important,” Murray said after his team outshot the Oilers, 41-21, including a 33-16 edge after the first 20 minutes.
“To come out with energy and our skating ability and doing the right things like we did in the second and third period, in my mind I’d like to think that the results would have been different.”
If they had won, the Western Conference playoff scramble might look different too. Every point is precious, but wins are critical because wins are the first tiebreaker if teams are even in games played and points. The Kings remain four points out of the final playoff spot but have only 24 wins, second-fewest in the conference.
That could hurt them later, although getting no points at all Saturday would have been an even tougher blow. With that in mind, Quick, who started his 10th straight game, seemed to take the glass-half-full approach.
“It was great the team battled in the second and third after that first period,” he said.
“It was there at the end and it would have been great to get both points, but you’ve got to be fortunate that you ended up with at least one point after that first period.”
Brown, who drew the tripping penalty on Cogliano with a tumble that Edmonton Coach Craig MacTavish contended had been embellished, seemed to fall into the glass-half-empty camp.
“We need to come ready to play,” said Brown, who was credited with a career-high 12 hits. “Every game’s a playoff game for us now and that first period, we weren’t ready to play. That’s something we have to correct.”
Asked if the game had felt like a playoff game, he forced a smile.
“Obviously I’ve never been in one at this level. But it had that type of feeling, where it was very physical, very emotional and back and forth,” said Brown, who is in his fifth season in the NHL, all with the Kings.
“If we could maybe come out better in the first, we might win that game in regulation.”
Before the game, the Kings’ management announced it had frozen all season-ticket prices for the 2009-10 season and that season-ticket holders who renew their current seats for next season with a deposit by March 30 can purchase 2009 playoff tickets at frozen regular-season prices.
It’s the least the Kings can do in a rotten economy.
But a few more missed points and opportunities will mean everyone will save money because the Kings won’t be playing any playoff games. Again.