Kings lose to Flames 3-1
CALGARY -- Perhaps, by now, the Kings have simply stopped counting. Who could blame them?
``I think I did once,'' Anze Kopitar
said, uncertainly, when asked about never winning an NHL game in Calgary. A few moments later, Kopitar's memory kicked in, and he recalled that he had not, in fact, ever enjoyed a victory in Calgary while wearing a Kings uniform.
Not that Kopitar is alone, by any stretch. The Kings lost to the Flames 3-1 on Sunday night at Scotiabank Saddledome, and have now lost 10 consecutive games in that arena.
Among current Kings, Dustin Brown
is the only remaining player from the group that beat the Flames on Dec. 21, 2005. Since then, the Flames have outscored the Kings by a margin of 35-14 in Calgary, and the Kings have totaled only five goals in their last six games at the Saddledome.
House of horrors? Yes, but as Kings coach Terry Murray pointed out after the game, arena architecture has nothing to do with it. It's the Kings' play that has often doomed them to defeats.
Curtis Glencross scored a second-period shorthanded goal, Craig Conroy scored early in the third period and, after Brown pulled the Kings within 2-1 with a goal with 5:54 remaining, Niklas Hagman scored into an empty net with 22.4 seconds remaining.
Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier
did his job and stopped 29 of 31 shots, but Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff was slightly better, as he stopped 21 of 22 and made some big saves early.
So, one night after the Kings scored only one goal in regulation, but edged Vancouver 2-1 in a shootout, they were unable to turn one goal into any points in the standings against the Flames. In two games this season, the Kings have scored two goals, and only one at even strength.
``For some reason, whenever we come here Kiprusoff always stands on his head,'' Kopitar said. ``In four years and one game here, I don't remember us scoring more than three goals, I think. We're going to have to bump that number up a little bit. We got out of there (with a win), but we're going to have to pick it up offensively, for sure.''
Based on the action in the first five minutes Sunday, the Kings looked as though they might break the Calgary curse. They were clearly faster than the Flames through the neutral zone and were aggressive in taking the puck to the net and challenging Calgary's defense and Kiprusoff.
Oddly, it was a pair of power plays, one at the 10-minute mark and another at the 14-minute mark, that seemed to take the Kings out of their rhythm. The Kings totaled six shots on goal in the game's first five minutes, but had a total of only 11 shots on goal over the following 36 minutes.
The Kings also had three power plays in the game's first 32 minutes, but couldn't generate much of anything. As they did last season, the Flames' penalty killers appeared to frustrate the KIngs by aggressively pursuing the Kings' point men at the blue line as soon as the puck arrived.
The Kings were credited with only one shot on goal during their three power plays.
``When they limit time and space, it's a little tougher,'' Ryan Smyth
said, ``but as professionals you've got to overcome those situations. Obviously our power play has to be better. It's unacceptable, for whatever reason. We'll get back to it and start communicating and carrying it through, and hopefully duplicate it on the ice. Special teams win you, or lose you, hockey games.''
Unable to set up an attack on the power play, the Kings too often turned to scramble mode and seemed, in general, to get out of their offensive rhythm for the rest of the game. The Flames outshot the Kings 32-22 for the game, including 14-7 in the third period.
``I thought the first half of the game, it was good,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``Both teams played hard and had probably equal chances, equal shots. But they took it away from us in the second half. In the second period, I don't know if we had a lot after 12 or 13 minutes gone. There was nothing at the end of the second period, and then in the third period they really checked hard and didn't give us too many quality chances after that.''
The offense didn't come around, and the defense got burned by a couple bad bounces.
The Kings went on the power play midway through the second period and had the puck in the Calgary zone, but when it got up to the blue line, Jack Johnson
was pressured by Calgary defenders and lost control of the puck.
Glencross jumped on it in the neutral zone and skated in on a breakaway. Bernier went for a close-range poke-check but missed, and Glencross tucked the puck around Bernier to give the Flames a 1-0 lead with 8:29 remaining in the second period.
The Kings nearly tied the game in the first minute of the third period, when Jarret Stoll
's deflection of a shot by Rob Scuderi
rang off the left goalpost. Approximately 30 seconds later, the puck was in the Kings' net and the Flames had a two-goal lead.
Conroy, a former Kings forward -- who, incidentally, was a member of the 2005 Kings team that won in Calgary -- picked up the puck and took Kings defenseman Davis Drewiske
wide right as he entered the Kings' zone.
Conroy pulled up in the right faceoff circle and shot, and the puck apparently deflected off Drewiske's stick, took a right turn and beat a surprised Bernier, 1:20 into the third period.
The Kings got on the board with 5:54 remaining, when Brown, in front of the Calgary net, deflected Kopitar's shot past Kiprusoff, but the Kings' chances of tying the game took a huge dent when Brad Richardson
took a high-sticking penalty with 1:35 to go. Hagman then scored the empty-netter.
``It would have been nice to start with a win, but the first one is out and now I've just got to get better at things,'' Bernier said. ``This is my first game, and I don't think it was our best game defensively. We had a lot of odd-man rushes, but with two games in two nights, we just have to regroup and be ready for Tuesday.''
The Kings play their home opener Tuesday night against Atlanta at STAPLES Center.
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