Kings let one slip away late against Coyotes
The playoffs are coming quicker than you can say Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is winless in his last seven starts.
Quick’s personal frustration was extended Thursday as the Kings squandered a late lead and lost to the Phoenix Coyotes, 3-2, in a shootout at Staples Center. The consolation point lifted them into fifth place in the Western Conference -- and a potential first-round playoff matchup against the Coyotes -- but it wasn’t a lot of consolation at all.
“I don’t know who I prefer to play,” Kings Coach Terry Murray said. “But I want to be playing better.”
The Coyotes, who won Wednesday at home and can’t move up, rallied to score twice late in the third period on plays generated off faceoffs. Matthew Lombardi scored from close range at 12:43 and Taylor Pyatt, in the high slot, redirected a shot by Zbynek Michalek past Quick at 14:07 to tie it.
Kings defenseman Matt Greene took the blame on the second goal, saying he should have covered Pyatt.
“We’ve just got to sharpen up, know what your assignment is and do it,” he said.
Right now, the Kings’ main assignment is to realize that even the simplest mistake could cost them dearly in the playoffs.
In the shootout, Anze Kopitar converted the Kings’ first attempt on former teammate Jason LaBarbera, and Radim Vrbata matched that in the third round by lifting a backhander past Quick. After Jarret Stoll was stopped by LaBarbera, defenseman Adrian Aucoin completed the Coyotes’ comeback with a wrist shot over Quick’s left shoulder.
“We’re obviously pretty disappointed. We want to get on a roll before the playoffs start,” said defenseman Drew Doughty, who scored the Kings’ first goal on a brilliant play in the second period. “Up by two goals with however many minutes left in that game, we let them get back in that game and win that game. If we’re doing that in the playoffs we’re going to lose, 4-0, in the series.”
Both of the Kings’ goals in regulation came from defensemen.
Aided by Kopitar’s career-best 46th assist, Doughty blew past the Phoenix defense and switched from his forehand to his backhand to break a 0-0 tie at 7:48 of the second period. Jack Johnson started and finished the play on the second goal, flipping a pass ahead to Ryan Smyth along the left-wing boards and racing up ice to take Smyth’s lead pass and slip a backhand shot past LaBarbera at 9:16 of the third.
But that lead vanished in short order on those two misplayed faceoffs.
“It’s a good lesson,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “Every single play matters, and it’s only going to start to matter more. Every chip out of the zone, every little thing matters. ... Attention to detail on draws cost us tonight.”
Quick stopped 25 shots in regulation and overtime, and Murray said he liked the goalie’s play early in the game, when the Kings were killing three penalties in the first and two in the second.
Quick couldn’t faulted on either goal, but neither did he make any momentum-changing, morale-boosting saves, and the loss did not silence questions about whether he has been overused this season.
He tied a franchise record with his 71st appearance of the season, matching the standard set by Felix Potvin in 2001-02, and is approaching 4,200 minutes. Murray has repeatedly said Quick is his No. 1 goalie, but for Quick’s sake -- and for the team’s -- he must end that winless streak soon.
The Kings have two regular-season games left, at home against Edmonton on Saturday and at Colorado on Sunday. They need one point to ensure they finish no lower than seventh, and two wins would land them fifth.
But sidestepping into the playoffs isn’t ideal for a young team that isn’t sure what lies ahead. That’s a detail that merits serious attention.