The Kings showed some heart in building 2-0 and 3-2 leads over the Dallas Stars on Thursday, but ultimately the 4-3 overtime loss also showed the same sloppiness defensively that has undermined them all season. They’re in position to match a franchise record for consecutive losses (11) when they face the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. Both teams are out of playoff positions — how the mighty have fallen. Their Stanley Cup successes — for Chicago in 2010, 2013 and 2015 and for the Kings in 2012 and 2014 — seem like ancient history.
Anze Kopitar made an impact
Kopitar ended an eight-game goal drought by scoring twice and adding an assist, his third game this season in which he scored three points or more, and his team-leading ninth multi-point game. He also won 19 of 26 faceoffs.
He scored the game’s first goal, at 7:57 of the first period, after he won a draw in Dallas’ zone and got the puck to Tyler Toffoli, who passed to Sean Walker. Kopitar, near the left post, redirected Walker’s shot past Anton Khudobin. Kopitar set up the Kings’ second goal, Brendan Leipsic’s redirection of a long shot by Drew Doughty.
Dallas pulled even on a goal by Tyler Seguin in the first period and a backhander by Mattias Janmark in the second period, but Kopitar gave the Kings a 3-2 edge at 11:46 of the second period. Dustin Brown fed Toffoli for a shot that Khudobin stopped, and a Dallas player fumbled the rebound that Kopitar swooped in for his 19th goal this season. Dallas pulled even at 9:53 of the third period when Radek Faksa converted the rebound of a shot by Blake Comeau.
Kopitar said the team’s effort was better than on their recent trip, during which they were outscored 18-6 in losing four games. “Tonight was better, but at the end of the day it’s the wins that count and the two points and we couldn’t get it done,” he said. What must they do to win? “Just eliminate mistakes,” he said. “I feel like that some of the goals that the other team scored were clear cut off our mistakes.”
There were small bright spots ...
Kings defenseman Matt Roy was credited with a game-high eight blocked shots, and the Kings mustered 30 shots on Khudobin. Six came from Toffoli. Matt Luff, recalled from Ontario (Calif.) of the American Hockey League earlier in the day, played nine minutes and 36 seconds. Defenseman Kurtis MacDermid played 15:12 in his season debut.
Also, Walker’s assist was his fifth this season in 27 games. “I thought overall it was pretty good,” Walker said of the Kings’ performance in the always-tricky first game at home after a long trip. “We led most of the game. It’s frustrating to lose it in the third. It seems like that’s a common trend right now, but I think we are just trying to focus on structure as much as we could, and attention to detail. Special teams were good tonight and I think overall it was good. We just have to find a way to bear down in the third and shut it down and make sure we get the win.”
… And some not-so-bright spots
The Kings had been 16-1-2 in previous games they led after two periods but they couldn’t hold the lead on Thursday. Also, their goal differential (goals for/goals against) is a ghastly -52, better only than the Ducks’ -57. It’s still shocking on some levels, given the Kings’ defensive excellence during their Cup-winning years, but it’s impossible to ignore.