Game 40; 25-11-4
CHICAGO - For the first time this season, the Los Angeles Kings have lost three-straight games - and they do it against a team they have had considerable difficulty against lo the last couple of years.
The Kings entered the United Center on Monday night hoping to avenge their 3-1 loss there 15 days prior. While it was a better overall effort by them on this night, the Kings simply could not solve Antti Rantta who made 26 saves en route to his first-career shutout.
The only goal of the game came as a result of a defensive lapse by Jake Muzzin and a missed clearing attempt by Mike Richards which immediately lead to Brandon Saad beating a fooled Martin Jones for his 14th of the campaign. But the Kings were not deterred and settled down. Unfortunately for them, they couldn't get much going in the offensive zone.
After trading six shots apiece in the opening frame, it turned into more of a shootout in the second as Los Angeles were superior, firing 15 shots on net to Chicago's 11 - but nothing in terms of goals.
There was one especially great effort by Dustin Brown who cut through the Blackhawks's defenders but was stopped by Rantta in close. Brown, however, was hooked on the play and rewarded a penalty shot. Unfortunately for the Kings' captain, Rantta was not fooled as he stopped Brown.
In the third, it was the Hawks who turned the pendulum in moment by outshooting Los Angeles 13-5. Martin Jones, however, was solid keeping his team in the game every chance he could. Too bad for Jones that the guys in front of him could barely muster anything in terms of quality scoring chances. Whether that can be blamed on the Los Angeles offense or commended towards the Chicago defense is up to you. But one thing is for certain: the Kings could not solve the defending champions on this night and fall 0-2 to Chicago on the campaign.
In addition to a 29-save performance by Jones, some positives out of Los Angeles's loss include Matt Greene who led the way for his team with seven hits followed by Jake Muzzin, who redeemed himself from his costly mistake early on, with four. Drew Doughty led the way with blocked shots with three with Dustin Brown led all Kings in shots with four.
Overall, a decent showing by the Kings but they do need to find more holes in the defense and create a heck of a lot more chances for themselves if they hope not only to close 2013 on a winning note but to regain that momentum they held not too long ago.
It's no rest for the silver-and-black as they travel to Dallas for a New Year's Eve date with the Stars.