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Kings’ late rally falls short against Avalanche

Kings right wing Alex Iafallo, left, controls the puck as Colorado Avalanche left wing Matt Calvert chases.
Kings right wing Alex Iafallo, left, controls the puck as Colorado Avalanche left wing Matt Calvert chases during the first period on Tuesday at Staples Center.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

For the first time in four years, the Kings are winless three games into the season. Their latest defeat was their first in regulation, a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Staples Center on Tuesday night.

Here are five takeaways from the team’s third game of the season:

Another slow start

The Kings (0-1-2) have surrendered the first goal in all three of their games, and Tuesday was the second straight game they struggled to find their legs in the opening minutes. The Avalanche (2-1-0) dominated possession on each of the night’s first four shifts, quickly breaking through barely three minutes in on a rebound tap-in by Brandon Saad.

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“We were behind the 8 ball a little bit the first seven to 10 minutes,” coach Todd McLellan said, noting the Kings hadn’t seen a team with the Avalanche’s speed in more than 10 months. “We hadn’t played at that pace yet and we were caught watching and standing around. But I thought as we started to skate with this team and allow ourselves to have some confidence and keep up with them, we were OK.”

Too many penalties

The Kings were OK — until their parade to the penalty box began again.

After committing 12 penalties in their first two games against the Minnesota Wild, the Kings were derailed by six more infractions Tuesday — including four in the second period alone that led to their first two unsuccessful penalty kills this season.

“Obviously the penalties are a huge part of what’s going on with our team right now,” said McLellan, whose team is averaging the most minors per game in the league, 5.33. “There’s not a magic wand. There’s nothing we can do other than take individual responsibility for some situations. It’s a little disappointing but we’ve got to keep working at it.”

It was déjà vu for the Kings, who led the Wild 3-1 heading into the third period — just like they did in their season opener — before losing in overtime.

A couple of the calls against the Kings on Tuesday — especially a Jeff Carter interference call — were questionable, but the Avalanche’s dangerous power-play unit took advantage nonetheless with one-timer goals from Devon Toews and Mikko Rantanen, snapping the Kings’ previously perfect 13-for-13 penalty-kill mark.

“I think five-on-five, we can play with anybody, just like any other team in this league,” forward Andreas Athanasiou said. “So it’s staying disciplined out there, trying to stay five-on-five as much as possible and just keeping the flow going.”

Cal Petersen’s season debut

After promising performances from Jonathan Quick last week, goalie Cal Petersen made 21 saves in his season debut Tuesday. Petersen was unavailable for the season opener because of COVID-19 protocols and needed a couple of practices this week to “to feel the puck a little bit,” McLellan said, before appearing in a game.

“It felt like in some certain times, I was playing a little bit of catchup, especially against a fast team like that,” Petersen said. “But I think I was able to settle into the game well and halfway through, I felt very comfortable.”

There was one goal that Petersen said he wished he could have another chance at, pointing to Toews’ one-timer from the point as “a save I can make.”

“The pass went [to the point] and I lost it through the bodies of traffic and looked on the wrong side of the bodies,” he said. “By that time, the puck was already headed to the net.”

Lineup changes

The Kings shuffled their forward personnel, replacing injured Matt Luff with winger Carl Grundstrom and scratching healthy Michael Amadio in favor of offseason acquisition Lias Andersson, who was praised by McLellan after the game for “competitiveness” in his Kings debut.

With his team trailing in the third period, McLellan mixed his forwards around some more, placing Trevor Moore on a line with Anze Kopitar and Alex Iafallo and moving Dustin Brown with Adrian Kempe and Gabriel Vilardi.

The Kings’ 4-3 loss to Minnesota was a mishmash of good and bad that shouldn’t have happened, even in a season opener that followed a 10-month break.

“We got some good nights from some players; others have to pick it up a notch,” McLellan said, adding: “We needed to move a few people around to give different lines different ingredients. Will it stay that way as we go forward? We’ll have to look at it tomorrow and decide from there.”

Athanasiou scores again

Andreas Athanasiou tied a career-best goal streak by scoring for a third straight game on a top-corner wrist shot early in the third period before Kempe’s power-play goal cut the deficit to one later in the period. But the Kings couldn’t come all the way back.

“Our locker room is fairly bright,” McLellan said. “They know where they’re at, they know a lot of the stuff they’re doing well and things they need to get better on and it’s our job to reinforce the positives.

“We’ll get better as time goes on. I don’t think anybody is disheartened to the point where they’re ready to throw the towel in. We know we have lots of work to do and we’re accepting of that.”


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