Game 56; 30-20-6
LOS ANGELES - On a night where the Staples Center faithful welcomed back former defenseman Rob Scuderi, the Los Angeles Kings were hoping to show that they were in good shape despite letting the defensive specialist return to the Steel City in the off-season. Instead, the Kingdom was longing for their former D-man.
A return to home ice was hopefully just what the doctor ordered for the Los Angeles Kings. They had struggled mightily in January and while a date with the Pittsburgh Penguins did not prove to be an easy one, the Kings were simply looking to end a disappointing month with a little bit of momentum. But...
Unfortunately, the silver-and-black got off to an inauspicious start as the visiting Penguins opened the scoring just 57 seconds into the contest courtesy of an Evgeni Malkin goal. On what could either be chalked up as fluid offense or sloppy defense, Malkin, who stood at the side of an open net, potted his 15th, in the process, leaving Jonathan Quick and the rest of the Kings confused on the play.
While the wind appeared to be out of the Los Angeles sails early on, the Kings did rally.
At the 9:16 mark of the first, Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz was called for hooking on Dustin Brown and while the Penguins have been strong on both sides of the special teams this season, the Kings made them pay. Just 16 seconds into the man-advantage, Anze Kopitar slapped his 16th past former Los Angeles prospect netminder Jeff Zatkoff to tie the game. Momentum was restored - but not for long.
Just 33 seconds later, Jarret Stoll was called for hooking on Evgeni Malkin. But before the Kings could touch the puck to stop play, Dustin Brown decided to slash Malkin, leading to a 5-on-3 advantage for the Penguins. Unfortunately for the Kings, the Pens showed why they've been so dominant this season.
Despite the best efforts of the Los Angeles penalty kill, Chris Kunitz broke through, snapping his 27th past Quick to regain the Pittsburgh lead at the 10:50 mark. Then, 57 seconds later and the Pens still up a man, Jussi Jokinen one-timed his 16th past Quick to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.
While he did finish the period, Jonathan Quick's night was done after the first, making way for Martin Jones.
In the second, it was more of a shootout as the two teams combined for 23 shots with Pittsburgh registered 12 of them. But it was the Pens who supplied the damage in the second as Tanner Glass roofed his fourth of the year on the backhand to put the road team up 4-1 - and that's how it ended.
Despite outshooting the Pens 12-3 in the third, the Los Angeles Kings just did not have anything going on this night. What was most frustrating was not the slow start but when the Kings scored and appeared to have some momentum, they quickly let it slip away with two undisciplined penalties, which led to two Pittsburgh goal essentially ending any hopes of returning to the win column for the silver-and-black.
The end result of this game underlines the Kings's January in a negative light. They simply could not keep up with the opposition which, I admit, is more of a testament to the strong Penguins attack rather than a detriment to the sloppy play of the Kings on both sides of the puck. With that said, though, the Kings play as of late has been unacceptable to say the least. But more on that later.
While there certainly any shame in losing to a club as deep and talented as the Pittsburgh Penguins are, the Los Angeles Kings must be very disappointed with their performance on Thursday.
While they must look forward to hosting the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, the Kingdom is switching their calendar over February knowing that the Olympic break cannot arrive fast enough.