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|Upon further review... - Fri, 21 Jan 2011|
|Having Doughts - Fri, 21 Jan 2011|
|01/20/11 - Post Game - Kings - Thu, 20 Jan 2011|
|01/20/11 - Post Game - Coyotes - Thu, 20 Jan 2011|
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|1/19/11 - Dean Lombardi On NHL Live - Wed, 19 Jan 2011|
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It was only one goal, one moment in a 60-minute game, and by the Kings' own admission, they should have been able to overcome it. But, boy, they were not happy.
Martin Hanzal's highly disputed goal broke a scoreless tie in the second period, then the Phoenix Coyotes scored less than a minute later and held on for a 2-0 victory over the Kings before a sellout crowd of 18,118 on Thursday night at STAPLES Center.
First, the obvious, the grim, raw numbers. The Kings are still only five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they're in 12th place, tied in points with 13th-place Columbus and ahead only because of the most-wins tiebreaker.
The Kings are now 2-10-0 in their last 12 games. They have now been shut out three times, scored two goals in their last three games and five goals in their last five losses.
Then, the controversy. The Kings were getting the better of the chances through the early part of the second period of a scoreless game when Justin Williams was called for tripping at the 8:40 mark. Eight seconds later, the puck was in the Kings' net, after Hanzal reached up with his stick and knocked it out of the air, past goalie Jonathan Quick.
The Kings quickly protested, saying that Hanzal knocked in the puck with a high stick, but after a lengthy video review in Toronto -- more than five minutes -- the goal held up.
Mike Murphy, the NHL's senior vice president of hockey operations, and the head of the group in Toronto that reviews goals, told Kings television analyst Jim Fox that there was no conclusive replay that would have overturned the goal. Murphy, according to Fox, said that the crew in Toronto never saw the puck conclusively hit Hanzel's stick and that all four on-ice officials agreed that the goal should count.
That didn't sit well with Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, to say the least.
``When the guy in Toronto making the decisions on the goals, in Ottawa and the one tonight, wanted the G.M.'s job in L.A. and was not happy about not getting it, you have to assume you are going to get those type of calls,'' Lombardi said after the game. ``However, we have put ourselves in a position where these calls have a monumental effect on our season, and we're going to have to find a way out of it ourselves.''
Lombardi's reference to Ottawa was to the Kings' Nov. 22 game against the Senators in Ottawa, in which on-ice officials waved off Ryan Smyth's potential game-tying goal, with three seconds remaining in the third period, and the video-review crew in Toronto did not rule it a good goal.
Murphy, a former NHL winger, played nine seasons for the Kings in the 1970s and 80s, then served as an assistant coach and head coach for parts of two seasons in the late 80s. Kings coach Terry Murray was only slightly more muted in his criticism.
"I don't know why we have video replay in the National Hockey League,'' Murray said. "That's all I can say. If the replay is there for review of goals and non-goals… I don't know. You've got a guy who gets credit for the goal. He's 6-foot-6, and the stick is up above his head. Matt Greene is 6-3, and he's batting the puck down his his hand beside his ear, and the net is four feet high. It doesn't add up.
"It makes no sense. No sense. How does it get called on the ice a goal, first of all, and then how does the replay hold it up? I don't know. I don't have an answer.''
Murray was asked if he got an explanation from the on-ice officials.
``They don't come near you,'' Murray said.
Even worse for the Kings was that while they were still reeling from Hanzal's goal, they gave up another one. On the next shift, Phoenix's Lee Stempniak forced the puck away from Kings winger Kevin Westgarth in the Coyotes' zone and started a 2-on-1.
Stempniak kept the puck and beat Quick with a wrist shot, 57 seconds after Hanzal's goal, to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead. That was enough for goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who faced quite a bit of pressure, as the Kings outshot the Coyotes 36-15.
The Kings' struggles were most pronounced on the power play, and that's nothing new. The Kings went 0-for-6 and are now 0-for-18 on the power play in their last six games. The Kings did get 10 power-play shots, but while the Coyotes scored two goals on four shots in the second period, the Kings went scoreless on four power-play chances.
``We worked hard tonight, but little mental things happen,'' Smyth said. ``We've got to get more traffic, especially against a goal that is on top of his game like Bryzgalov tonight. The power play is awful. We've got to be way better, and take more responsibility as a group of five out there, and then the other unit, and almost challenge each other.
``We had a good, hard practice yesterday with the power play and the special teams, but that sometimes gives you momentum in hockey games and deflates you in hockey games. It's done that lately for us.''
The Kings started well, and then outshot the Coyotes 26-9 over the final two periods, but still lost, as they fell to 0-3 against the Pacific Division rival Coyotes this season.
``Usually, when a goalie has a shutout, you say, `Well, he saw a lot of shots,'' Kings winger Justin Williams said ``And he did, but we've got to establish body position a little bit earlier, because every time we seemed to have a rebound, they seemed to swipe it out of the way. But obviously kudos to him. He seemed to be on his game, but at the end of the day, we need to find a way to break through, because it's been too long. We're sick of it.''
Ahead for the Kings is a Saturday road game against Phoenix, home games against Boston and San Jose -- two more tough opponents -- and then 10 straight road games.
``Obviously the confidence is not the highest but it is what it is,'' Kings assistant captain Anze Kopitar said. ``You go through stretches like this in the season and you have to find a way to get out of them. We found a way to get out of one earlier and we’re going to find a way to get out of this one. Again, I thought we were doing some good things tonight…and we have to come out on Saturday and win a hockey game.''