DENVER -- There’s been huffing and puffing, but the proverbial house isn’t budging very much.
In their last two games, the Kings have recorded 39 and 32 shots on goal, respectively, strong totals for a team that regularly struggles to get that total north of 29. All that, though, hasn’t led to very much.
For a second consecutive game -- and for the ninth time in 11 games this season -- the Kings failed to score three goals in regulation. That, along with a couple strange plays, cost them Sunday night in a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche before 12,355 at Pepsi Center.
The Kings, after a 3-0-2 start, were handed their first regulation road loss of the season while the Avalanche, after a 0-3-0 start, recorded their first home victory of the season.
``If we win this game in regulation, it’s a great trip,’’ center Jarret Stoll
said. ``Now it’s an average trip. We should have had better out of tonight’s game.’’
The Kings finished their road trip with a 1-1-1 record, respectable given that they played three games in three different time zones in four nights. To be certain, the Kings played well enough to win Sunday, but they were done by a couple odd plays as well as, again, their inability to put a third goal on the board.
Colorado took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a shorthanded goal, but the Kings quickly tied the game.
Colorado took a 2-1 lead nine minutes into the second period, after the puck rocketed off the end boards and toward the front of an empty net, but the Kings tied the game again late in the period.
The Kings, though, had no answer after Matt Duchene used Kings defenseman Drew Doughty
as a screen and whistled a perfect wrist shot past goalie Jonathan Quick
1:52 into the third period.
The Kings outshot the Avalanche 32-16, but their tired legs started to show in the third period, when they put only six shots on goalie Semyon Varlamov. Doughty, in his second game back after injury, struggled again and Quick, bad-bounce goal aside, wasn’t at his sharpest in the second of back-to-back games.
Afterward, Murray fumed about the way the Pepsi Center boards played on Milan Hejduk’s second-period goal, and generally expressed pleasure with the way his team handled the game and the road trip. But there remains an ominous theme on offense, and a familiar one of the Kings over the past two seasons.
In training camp last month, Murray and management stressed the importance of improving scoring. With the exception of five-goal outbursts against St. Louis and Dallas, it hasn’t happened, as the Kings have failed to score a third regulation goal in nine of their first 11 games this season.
``We’ve got to try to generate more,’’ Stoll said. ``We got a lot of shots blocked in the second half of the game tonight. Teams, everyone is blocking shots, everyone is getting in lanes. We’ve got to find a way to work harder and get pucks to the net, make plays and figure out a way to just get the puck on net and score some ugly goals, get to those tough areas to score more goals.
``That’s the only way out of it. If you’re not going to do those things, it’s not going to happen. You can’t keep relying on your goaltender to give up one or get a shutout to win a game. We’ve got to be better in that area.’’
Murray often stresses the term ``shot mentality,’’ the desire for his players to get pucks to the net, from all angles and situations, in order to create scoring chances, and of late the Kings have followed up.
The Kings recorded a season-high 39 shots on goal on Saturday in Phoenix, but lost 3-2 in overtime. Through two periods Sunday, the Kings were outshooting the Avalanche 26-9. Every Kings forward except Dustin Penner
recorded at least one shot on goal in the game, as did three of the six defensemen.
What did the Kings have to show for it? Not much. Scott Parse
showed nice finish on the power play to tie the game 1-1 in the first period, and Anze Kopitar
scored a 5-on-3 goal in the second period.
The Kings had 24 shots on goal in even-strength situations and did not score a goal. Varlamov often left juicy rebounds in front of the net, but too much of the Kings’ forwards were on the perimeter of the play.
Will it all even out? Odds dictate that if the Kings regularly are above the 30-shot mark, the goals will eventually come. Perhaps that’s why, after the game, Murray was dismissive of the suggestion that the Kings can’t be making a habit of only putting two goals on the scoreboard.
````Well, I don’t think that was (the problem) tonight,’’ Murray said. ``The goals they got, they got a shorthanded goal. They got a real lucky bounce off the end boards. It’s hard to believe that the boards in the NHL would not be installed properly, in this day and age. It’s incredible. I mean, they’re not in and out. There’s no NBA. But you get a bad break on that one, and then I think the shot Duchene took ended up deflecting off, or hitting, Doughty, and went up into the top corner. I don’t think Quicker saw it at all.
``So, they got a couple breaks. We played really good. We played very well here, with three games in four nights. To come in and play, and almost double up the shots, and the offensive-zone time, I was really proud of the way we played here today.’’
Colorado failed to score on two early power plays, but scored a shorthanded goal 6:55 into the game. Chuck Kobasew carried the puck deep and got around Doughty, headed toward the back of the net. Quick appeared to be going for a poke check as Kobasew went by, but then couldn’t get back in position before Kobasew scored on a wraparound. Gabriel Landeskog and Shane O’Brien got assists.
The lead lasted only 27 seconds, though, as the Kings scored a power-play goal. Stoll’s wrist shot from the high slot got deflected on the way to the net and Parse, to the left of the net, took a baseball-style whack at the puck and scored from close range to make it a 1-1 game 7:22 into the first period.
An odd power-play goal gave the Avalanche the lead 9:04 into the second period. Quick went behind his net to play a dump-in, but the puck caromed hard off the end boards and right to the front of the net. Hejduk picked it up, turned and scored before Quick could get back in position as Colorado took a 2-1 lead. David Jones and Kyle Quincey got assists.
``It just took an unexpected bounce,’’ Quick said. ``It hit something and it jumped out. It was coming along the wall and I was just going to stop it and leave it. We were on the PK and I believe it was Scuderi who was coming in to do a hard rim. It just took a hard hop off the wall. Nothing you can do about that. It’s just a crappy bounce.’’
The special-teams goals continued, as the Kings tied the game with a 5-on-3 goal with 1:16 remaining in the second period. Varlamov saved the initial shot by Doughty, and Dustin Brown
poked at the rebound before Kopitar knocked it in from the left side to tie the game 2-2.
Colorado took a 3-2 lead 1:52 into the third period. Duchene took a pass from David Jones and brought the puck up the left side with speed as Doughty gave chase. Duchene pulled up at the left circle and Doughty went down to try to block the shot, but Duchene’s high shot beat Quick to the far post.
``Yeah, a bit,’’ Quick said when asked if he had been screened. ``(Duchene) came down with a lot of speed. He made a great shot and he put it in a real good spot. I don’t think me or the defenseman could have played it any differently. He made a real good shot. You’ve got to tip the cap to a player like that, when he does something like that.’’