Flames defeat Kings 2-1
CALGARY – There are some absolute truths in the NHL, and here is one: If a team’s top line is not consistently scoring, that team is in trouble.
The Kings, in recent games, have provided a perfect, grim example, as they have received little production from top players. The trend continued Wednesday night, as the Kings fell to the Calgary Flames, 2-1, before 19,289 at Pengrowth Saddledome.
The Kings’ losing streak reached a season-worst four games, and they were unable to cap a special day – Drew Doughty
was selected to Canada’s Olympic team – with a victory in a game that was colored by a dangerous hit by Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
Rene Bourque scored a 4-on-4 goal to give Calgary a 1-0 lead in the first period. Scott Parse
tied the game 15 seconds into the second period, but former Kings center Craig Conroy scored 2:48 into the second period for the game-winning goal. Kings winger Dustin Brown
failed on a penalty-shot attempt 4:49 into the second period.
``I thought we did some good things, and there is some improvement left too,’’ Kings center Anze Kopitar
said. ``It's one of those games that could go either way, and we're definitely not satisfied with that, just playing good. We need points.’’
To be certain, Calgary is no slouch. The Flames love to hit, and they have a world-class goalie in Miikka Kiprusoff, a combination that makes it tough on even the best teams.
But the Kings aren’t making it easy for themselves these days. Since Ryan Smyth
suffered his upper-body injury on Nov. 16, the Kings have been unable to put together three players who can form a consistent scoring threat.
Kopitar now has two goals and five assists in his last 18 games. Other full-time, or part-time, first-line players? Smyth is scoreless in two games since his return. Justin Williams
had gone eight games without a goal before he broke his ankle last week. Alexander Frolov has three goals in the last month. Teddy Purcell has one in his last 34 games.
Wednesday’s first line of Smyth, Kopitar and Williams combined for four shots, the same number that fourth-line center Oscar Moller
had by himself.
It’s enough to make coach Terry Murray’s remaining dark hair go gray. Understandably, Murray couldn’t offer much when asked how to get the first line turned around.
``Just keep playing them,’’ Murray said. ``We're talking, we're reviewing, we're practicing, we're giving them the opportunity. Five on five, power play, 4 on 4, penalty killing. It does go to the hands of the players sometimes, too.
``We've all been there, as players, where you go through tough times, but it eventually comes back to the player, that you've got to work your way through it and find a way to get the job done. Everyone is aware of Kopitar and the line. Five back, and matchups and all that, but that's the territory that he's got to deal with.’’
Of course, there is a defensive side of the game, and Kopitar, in particular, has provided solid play on his own end of the ice, but the scoring has not been there of late.
The Kings have totaled 11 goals in their last six games, and are 2 for 22 on the power play in their last eight games. The Kings took little consolation from the fact that they played well in many areas Wednesday night.
The Kings killed all five Calgary power plays, held the Flames to 21 shots on goal and got a strong effort from goalie Erik Ersberg
, in only his fourth start of the season.
The Kings didn’t let the Flames push them around, either. At the 5:26 mark of the first period, Kopitar attempted to touch up a puck for icing when he was blasted by Phaneuf and went head-first into the boards.
Phaneuf received a five-minute boarding penalty and a game misconduct, punishment that was negated a bit when Kings defenseman Sean O’Donnell, who came to Kopitar’s defense, was called for roughing and charging penalties.
``That's one of the dirtier hits in the game,’’ Murray said. ``That's been addressed at the league level, and that's why the referee called a game misconduct.’’
Kopitar, asked whether Phaneuf’s hit had been dirty, left little doubt about his feelings.
``We're going down for the puck. I'm reaching around, trying to get the puck,’’ Kopitar said. ``He doesn't even think about the puck. You be the judge if that's a dirty hit.’’
Midway through the period, Kings enforcer Raitis Ivanans got 16 minutes’ worth of penalties when he blasted Calgary’s David Moss with an elbow. That set off a second round of jawing on the benches between Murray and Calgary’s Brent Sutter.
``I was saying, `Happy New Year,’’’ Murray deadpanned, as he stood stone-faced after the game.
The on-ice result of the Phaneuf hit was a four-minute, 4-on-4 situation, and the Flames scored less than a minute after it began, at the 6:21 mark. Jay Bouwmeester carried the puck into the Kings' zone, and Rene Bourque beat Doughty to the front of the net, took a nice pass from Bouwmeester and scored.
The game only got more heated from there. Ivanans got minor penalties for interference, elbowing and roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. Calgary's Aaron Johnson got a roughing penalty. Calgary's Curtis Glencross and the Kings' Brad Richardson got matching 10-minute misconduct penalties. The game's first 12 minutes featured 57 minutes worth of penalties.
The Kings tied the game 15 seconds into the second period. Parse took a pass from Moller and, from just below the left circle, whipped a shot, short side, that got between Miikka Kiprusoff's right arm and body.
But the Kings, again, showed an inability to sustain momentum after a goal. At the 2:48 mark, Conroy scored his first goal of the season. Ersberg attempted to play the puck behind his net, but got caught in traffic and left the net empty as Conroy got the puck in front and scored.
was awarded a penalty shot at the 4:49 mark, after it was ruled that Mark Giordano hooked Brown on a breakaway, but Brown lost control of the puck and never got off a shot.
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