VANCOUVER -- At times Thursday night, the Kings must have felt as though the Vancouver Canucks were using a trick puck, one with a string attached somewhere.
Over the first nine minutes of the game, there were nine faceoffs, and the Canucks won all of them. Two Vancouver faceoff wins led directly to goals, and that played a big part in the Canucks' 4-1 victory over the Kings before 18,810 at GM Place.
The Kings had other issues, to be certain, as they lost for the third time in their last four games. Brayden Schenn, the Kings' first-round pick in the June entry draft, made his NHL debut after signing a one-game amateur tryout agreement.
The Kings' neutral-zone play was sometimes sloppy and the power play stalled again, but all of that starts with being able to control the puck.Last season, the Kings were one of the league's best faceoff teams. Now they're one of the worst, and Thursday they won only 25 of 66 draws (38 percent).
Alex Burrows' first-period goal and Henrik Sedin's third-period goal, which broke a 1-1 tie and was the first of three Vancouver third-period goals, both came within seconds of faceoff wins by the Canucks.
``Our percentage was one of the best in the league last year, so it has dropped off a bit,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``It ended up being the part of the game that cost us tonight, two faceoff goals.''
The final margin would have been wider if not for some outstanding play from Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who stopped 31 of 34 shots and made several point-blank saves, none better than a glove save on Ryan Kesler in the first period.
``I felt bad for Quick at the end of the game,'' Murray said. ``He made some big stops. I felt that through the second period we had the better scoring chances. Luongo was really good for them.''
Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo was every bit Quick's equal, though, and stopped 31 shots. The Kings' only goal came late in the second period, when Wayne Simmonds showed good awareness in front and knocked in a deflected puck to tie the game.
But the Kings stalled otherwise. They went 0 for 4 on the power play and generated only four shots in the process, and what should have been a sure goal by Teddy Purcell, facing a prone goalie, ended up with the puck in Luongo's glove.
Without injured winger Ryan Smyth, the Kings' first line continues to struggle. In the four games since Smyth suffered his upper-body injury, his former linemates, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, have totaled zero goals and two assists.
Purcell, given an opportunity to showcase his offensive skills on the first line, has zero points in two games and, overall, three points in his last 21 games.
When Murray put the Purcell, Kopitar, Williams line together this week, he said he would give it a couple games and see how it looked. The verdict so far?
``There's no production,'' Murray said. ``There's certainly opportunities, and that's a bit of a concern for me. Again, those situations that I'm seeing Teddy in here tonight, that's his M.O. He ususally jumps on those scoring opportunities. I'm going to have to take a look at it.
``I'll talk with our staff and take a look at it myself and think about it. We have a day to get back and get reorganized and get ready for the next game.''
Things won't get any easier, as the Kings host Chicago, one of the league's hottest teams, on Saturday night. They are unlikely to still have Schenn, who was expected to return to his junior team after a whirlwind first day in the NHL.
After center Andrei Loktionov suffered a dislocated shoulder in Wednesday night's game, the Kings chose to bring up Schenn, who had been playing in a junior-level international series in nearby Victoria, B.C.
Schenn, who is not yet under contract with the Kings, arrived in Vancouver on Thursday morning, participated in the morning skate and replaced Loktionov on the second line between wingers Alexander Frolov and Dustin Brown.
Schenn earned good reviews after he played 12 minutes, 31 seconds. Schenn didn't record a shot on goal but tied for the team high with four hits.
``Schenn was very good,'' Murray said. ``He plays with a lot of character and a lot of composure. He's got a huge heart and he competes hard. We liked him out of the training camp and I like him even more after this game here tonight.''
Unfortunately for Schenn, his first NHL game didn't end with a win. The Canucks, winners of three of their last four, took the lead fairly early and never trailed.
With the score tied 1-1, Simmonds hit the post with a long-range shot 1:49 into the third period. Just more than two minutes later, Henrik Sedin scored the go-ahead goal that ended up being the game-winning goal.
``I thought that was the game-breaker,'' Kopitar said. ``Last night, I thought that when (Edmonton's Sam) Gagner hit the crossbar, that was the game-breaker. Tonight, Simmer hit the post and right after that they came down and scored on us pretty quickly.''
Neither team had a strong scoring chance until the Canucks took a 1-0 lead 7:35 into the first period. Henrik Sedin won the faceoff, Daniel Sedin brought the puck down low and centered it to Alex Burrows, who beat Drew Doughty to the front of the net and scored on a one-timer from close range.
The Kings finally beat Luongo in the final minute of the first period. Simmonds, stationed to the right of the net, jumped on a deflected puck and roofed a shot past Luongo with 43 seconds left in the second period to tie the game.
The Canucks took the lead back with another goal almost directly off a faceoff. Alex Edler took a point shot, and Henrik Sedin pounced on the rebound and put it past Quick 3:54 into the third period, after Quick had come far off his line to challenge the slap shot.
A two-goal lead followed shortly. A wrist shot from the slot got deflected in front, and while Quick scrambled to try to cover the puck, the Canucks crashed the net and Tanner Glass knocked in the rebound at the 7:18 mark.
Kyle Wellwood added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
1 - 0 VAN
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 VAN
3 - 1 VAN
4 - 1 VAN