Playoff seasons are not built on home losses to the Phoenix Coyotes. Nor are they built, in general, on the type of effort the Kings gave in their season opener Saturday night.
Seemingly frustrated by the speed of the Phoenix Coyotes, and clearly outplayed in 5-on-5 situations for long stretches of the game, the Kings were booed off the ice by the Staples Center sellout crowd after they lost 6-3 to the Coyotes.
The Coyotes, widely expected to finish at, or near, the bottom of the Western Conference, scored six goals on the Kings, something that happened only five times last season.
"That’s probably the worst scenario that you can have on an opening night," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "We looked very out of sync, we were not passing the puck well, we were over-handling, a lot of turnovers, just sloppy play."
This season, one of high expectations, one in which the Kings believe they can make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, had a dreadful start. The Kings scored three power-play goals on four chances but 5-on-5 play, a problem area last season, once again doomed them.
"Definitely not the start we wanted," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "I don’t know where we went wrong. We didn’t manage the puck good and we didn’t pass the puck good. The puck was bouncing all over the place. We had some breakdowns in the defensive zone that led to goals."
Phoenix, which didn’t meet its coach – former Kings assistant Dave Tippett – until late in training camp, outperformed the Kings in almost every area. Radim Vrbata scored two goals and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made 30 saves.
Jonathan Quick, the latest name on a long list of players the Kings have hoped could end their search for a consistent No. 1 goalie, allowed all six goals, on 30 shots. That was a career high for Quick, who allowed five goals five times last season as a rookie.
Then again, Quick didn’t get a lot of defensive help either, as two defensive-zone turnovers by Drew Doughty led directly to two third-period goals and a 6-2 Phoenix lead.
Doughty scored a power-play goal with 8:04 remaining in the third period, but that did little to ease the pain.
"It’s hard to put a finger on it," Murray said. "I thought our practices were good. We were moving the puck, we’ve been skating well, the goalies looked sharp… If there’s an opening-night nervousness with this young group, that could be it, but on the other side, you have to work through it."
The Kings trailed 3-0 and 4-1 in the second period, but appeared to get some life when Alexander Frolov scored a 4-on-3 goal with 43 seconds left in the period to make it 4-2.
That momentum did not carry over to the third period. In the first minute, Doughty made an ill-advised clearing attempt up the middle of the ice. Phoenix’s Scottie Upshall easily intercepted it and beat Quick with a wrist shot from the slot for a 5-2 lead.
At the 8:25 mark of the third period, Doughty lost the puck in the defensive zone and Robert Lang scored an unassisted goal from the slot for a four-goal Phoenix lead.
Vrbata scored 5:31 into the first period, and Matthew Lombardi scored with 2:12 left in the period for a 2-0 lead after Matt Greene swept the puck into his own net while attempting to break up a Phoenix 2-on-1.
Daniel Winnik scored 8:22 into the second period to make it 3-0.
"In practices and preseason games, I thought our team at least had good habits," Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "Maybe we didn’t win all the preseason games, but I felt we made good habits that we built in practice. Tonight we went down a goal, then the second one was kind of tough to take, but either way you have to be able to play your system and stay together as a team.
"We’re not going to go anywhere if we fall apart every time a little adversity hits us."
Kopitar scored the first goal of the Kings’ season when he took a pass from Ryan Smyth in front of the net and scored a power-play goal 10:37 into the second period to cut Phoenix’s lead to 3-1.
The Stars were out for the Kings Home Opener with former Laker Rick Fox and the newest Laker Ron Artest; Katie Cassidy and Shaun Sipos from Melrose Place, Shenae Grimes and Tristan Wilds from 90210 and Dylan McDermott from TNT's Dark Blue all in attendance at tonight's game...The Kings three-goal loss was the worst Season Opening Kings loss since 1993-94, a 5-2 loss to Vancouver...The Kings are now 17-16-9 all-time in Season Openers and are 21-13-8 in Home Openers...The Kings have now sold out 12 straight Home Openers...Sean O’Donnell’s 191 consecutive games played streak ended tonight at 191 as the bruising defenseman is serving the rest of a five-game suspension and will miss the first two games of the season...All three Kings goals came on the power play (3-for-4)...The Kings surrendered six-plus goals five times in 2008-09 (11/22: 6-2 L, CGY: 12/9: 6-2 L, COL; 12/20: 6-4 L, DET; 2/16: 7-6 SOL, ATL; and 2/21: 6-3 L, PHX).
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