Confronted by a one-goal deficit heading into the third period, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter opted for the more-more solution.
More Anze Kopitar.
More Jeff Carter.
Sutter leaned on his top two centers, doled out minimal time to his two centers in the bottom six and it nearly worked as the Kings pressed hard in the final minutes here Friday night. The Red Wings and their busy goalie Petr Mrazek managed to hang on and left with a 3-2 victory over the Kings at Joe Louis Arena.
“Teams nowadays, everybody protects the lead pretty well,” said Kopitar. “You can’t be chasing the game.”
It was the Kings’ first loss in four games and their second road loss in seven games this season. For their No. 2 goalie, Jhonas Enroth, it was his first loss in four starts with the Kings.
Their two goals came via Carter, who scored his eighth and ninth of the season, and had a game-high seven shots on goal.
“We had lots of opportunities,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. “We gave up three and then you’ve got to score four. That’s a big challenge in this league.”
Carter’s first goal was a shorthanded breakaway in the first period and the second came four-on-four, at 10:43 of the second, cutting the Red Wings’ lead to 3-2.
“We scored a shorthanded goal to get us back in it,” Sutter said. “We scored a four-on-four goal to get us back in it. Five on five: We don’t have four lines producing.”
Which is why Sutter said he “basically” double-shifted Carter and Kopitar. Kopitar’s ice time was 22 minutes 35 seconds, his most since the fourth game of the season; he logged 8:23 in the third period. Carter’s ice time was 21:08, the second-most amount for him this season, and he played 7:46 in the third period.
The Kings’ third and fourth line centers, Nick Shore and Andy Andreoff, both had a little more than two minutes of ice time in the third period. Shore’s total ice time, 10:16, was a season low.
“Obviously tonight it affected the line rotation,” Kopitar said. “In the end, there was a lot of juggling. Just trying to get the tying goal, and that’s what made us maybe play a little more aggressive.
“At the same time, you can’t run and gun. Not with a team like that.”
The Kings gave up a late power-play goal in the first period, via a wide open Tomas Tatar, to fall behind, 1-0. Kings defenseman Derek Forbort had gone off for holding, and Sutter was critical of the rookie.
“The first goal against us was a soft penalty by Forbort, two games in a row,” Sutter said. “It’s not acceptable in the National Hockey League.
“The [third] one was a sort of between a rush and a soft coverage play: our left defenseman [Forbort] and centerman [Andreoff].”
Enroth had allowed a mere two goals in his first three starts. The Red Wings scored three times, to take a 3-1 lead, before the game was 27 minutes old. Dylan Larkin made it 3-1 with his seventh of season at 6:08 of the second period.
“I think they came down four-on-two,” Enroth said. “Whoever passed it over made a pretty good pass, kind of froze me a little bit. I made the first save. I thought I had control. It was just sitting there for the third guy.
“Obviously it was an odd-man rush against us that we don’t want to give up. But that’s going to happen sometimes too.”
Enroth noted, wryly, that the Red Wings not only had considerable talent but other home arena advantages.
“Even the rink is on their side,” he said, smiling. “You’ve got to pay attention to the boards. So they have a lot weapons on the team and the rink.”