The Kings were not set up well for 60 minutes against a Ken Hitchcock-coached team.
They had just finished seven straight games away from home, with one day of rest, and had to take on the stubborn, hard-forechecking style that the Dallas Stars are known for under Hitchcock.
The result was not a lot of legs left for Game 61, a 2-0 loss at Staples Center. The Kings were shut out without much resistance, just 18 shots that goalie Kari Lehtonen saved, while Jonathan Quick’s 26 saves went for nothing.
Here’s what we learned:
Tobias Rieder has legs. Rieder was a bright spot in his Kings debut as third-line left wing. He closed quickly on pucks and moved into spaces with the speed that made the Kings trade for him. Though not a household hockey name, Rieder’s new teammates were aware of him and what he brings.
“It’s nice he’s on our team as opposed to coming against us, because you saw some flashes tonight where he takes off,” Jake Muzzin said. “He’s fast.”
Rieder joked to coach John Stevens that his best games were against the Kings when he was with the Arizona Coyotes. He had three goals and four assists in 15 career games against them. He is the third new forward or defensemen that the Kings have integrated in the last week, and Stevens is keeping it simple.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Stevens said. “I think we’ve got a good fundamental foundation of how we want to play. I think he understands that. I think the transition for him should be easy.”
Regulation losses hurt more this time of the season. A loss in October should count as the same in February, but it hits home harder because of the shift in standings. The Kings are out of a wild-card spot with 21 games remaining, even though it’s only by a point.
Details matter tenfold. The Kings were essentially beat on a set faceoff play by Dallas. One play that decided the outcome.
“This time of year is a playoff-type atmosphere,” Stevens said. “Little inches make feet.”
Drew Doughty wasn’t feeling it. Doughty is noticeable not only for his play but his chatter on the bench and his giddy facial expressions that usually find their way onto social media. Perhaps no other player in the NHL exudes such passion for the game.
But this was a forgettable game for the Kings and Doughty. In the first period, he lost the puck near the boards, which turned into a Dallas scoring chance, and he was later in pain after a rough run into the end boards with Brett Ritchie.
In the long run, the addition of Dion Phaneuf might be a break for Doughty, who has played fewer than 25 minutes in three of five games since Phaneuf arrived. Doughty wants to be on the ice as much as possible but saving him some for the playoffs probably wouldn’t hurt.