The final score was telling and deceiving.
The Kings lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-1, and it would have been a wider margin if not for the performance of Jonathan Quick. His 36 saves kept the Kings in the game right up until he was pulled for an extra attacker.
But even then the Kings couldn’t get set up in Pittsburgh’s end and walked out of PPG Paints Arena with a third straight loss on this seven-game trip.
Here’s what we learned:
Dion Phaneuf brings a shot mentality and some bite. Aside from a goal in his Kings debut, Phaneuf threw his body around, helped kill penalties and showed a good dynamic with partner Alec Martinez.
His determination to put the puck on net is noticeable.
“Dion, to me, looks like a guy that wants to shoot the puck all the time, which is a really good thing,” coach John Stevens said.
Phaneuf is known as a consummate professional, on and off the ice, and captain Anze Kopitar took note of what Phaneuf brings in both areas.
“He’s got that threat of a shot that is welcome on the power play and even the five-on-five [play], he was shooting the puck pretty well tonight,” Kopitar said. “Even the physical presence and the veteran presence in the room, it’s going to help us.”
Trevor Lewis is sorely missed. Lewis is a depth player but he does all the little things well, and it’s fair to say his absence has been noticed since he went down with an upper-body injury in the waning minutes of the first game of the trip.
The Kings won that game but are 0-3 since, having to depend on a bottom-six forward group that features rookies Michael Amadio and Jonny Brodzinski, along with Kyle Clifford, Torrey Mitchell and Andy Andreoff.
Nate Thompson should help offset this, but as far as other help, general manager Rob Blake basically said that they’ve emptied their minor league bucket and this is essentially their team going forward. Lewis remains week-to-week but does not have a concussion, Blake said.
The Kings’ six-on-five prowess fizzled out. They’ve been one the better teams in the NHL with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, having scored five goals in that situation.
But on Thursday, the Kings struggled just to get Quick to the bench, with 60 seconds to go, and quickly lost the puck that Evgeni Malkin scored on an empty net. Credit the Penguins’ aggressive, balanced attack, but the final sequence summed up the Kings’ night.