DENVER – Would the Kings earn one point Wednesday night? A poll, taken after the first period, likely would have resulted in a near-unanimous answer: No.
The Kings, through a grim combination of bad play and bad breaks, trailed by two goals after 20 minutes, but battled back behind relief goalie Erik Ersberg and earned a point with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center.
From the Kings’ perspective, it was tough to know exactly what to make of the game.
After bad penalties, broken sticks, own goals and a goalie change, the Kings trailed 3-1 after the first period, steadied in the second period and dominated in the third, as they got Alexander Frolov’s game-tying goal with 1:21 remaining and their net empty.
In the third round of a tied shootout, Colorado’s Chris Stewart beat Ersberg and Kings winger Ryan Smyth, formerly of Colorado, hit the crossbar to end the game.
Happy or sad? After the game, the Kings leaned toward the former, particularly since the result felt like an evening-out of Monday’s game, in which the Avalanche scored with 10 seconds remaining to tie the game and the Kings won it in overtime.
``As much as we gave away the one at STAPLES [Center] the other night, we got it back,’’ Anze Kopitar said. ``Obviously you want to win the game, but to finish it off like that, it's pretty something and it shows the character.’’
Kings coach Terry Murray took a middle-of-the-road look at the game, as the one point allowed the Kings to remain in fifth place in the Western Conference with 10 games left. The Kings, with 90 points, are one point ahead of Colorado and Nashville.
``At this time of the year, you have to take in the big picture, the whole game,’’ Murray said. ``It's a great point. It's great to come back, and that's what you have to be able to do, to battle back and at least give yourself a chance. But in the first two periods, there were things that I didn't like. I expressed that to the team after periods, at the end of the first and again at the end of the game.
``You just have to be better. It's not just one or two passes. You've got to make four or five passes. You've got to get through the middle. You've got to make the right decisions. I felt we mis-managed the puck, with turnovers, and as a result we were taking cross-checking penalties, we had slashing penalties, and you can't do that. That's the composure and poise that you have to be able to deal with, and play the right way.''
The Kings only had one bad period Wednesday, but it was almost enough to send them to regulation defeat.
Colorado took an early lead on a goal that appeared to go off the skate of Kings defenseman Jack Johnson, took a 2-1 lead on a power-play goal after Jarret Stoll broke his stick and took a 3-1 lead when Doughty inadvertently knocked the puck into his own net.
It was a near-total disaster, enough to convince Murray to pull starting goalie Jonathan Quick in favor of Ersberg, who hadn't appeared in a game since Feb. 11. Quick stopped 13 of 16 shots and Ersberg stopped all 14 shots he faced in relief.
``I felt good right from the start,’’ Ersberg said. ``We picked up the game, too, after the first period, so that helped a lot also. It was good to get away with one point, at least. Obviously, we wanted two.’’
Murray said he will go back to Quick in goal when the Kings play at St. Louis on Thursday night, but made it clear that his pulling of Quick wasn't simply to send a message to the rest of the team.
``There were a couple (goals) there that, even though they were power plays, and I know it's a 5-on-3 and there's a lot happening with the play in our end for extended times, I need some stops there,’’ Murray said. ``I need that one on the one-timer. I know there were a couple that came to the front of the net off our own players, but that's hockey. I need him to be alert on those.’’
The teams met just 48 hours after a hard-fought game at STAPLES Center, won by the Kings 4-3 in overtime.
Kings defenseman Matt Greene missed Wednesday's game with an undisclosed upper-body injury and is considered day to day. Davis Drewiske, a healthy scratch from the previous 11 games, replaced Greene. The Kings also inserted Peter Harrold into the lineup in place of Rich Clune on the fourth line.
Colorado played without winger Darcy Tucker, who received a one-game suspension for the hit that caused Greene's injury during Monday's game.
The teams exchanged goals in short order in the first period.
Colorado took a 1-0 lead when Matt Hendricks walked out and fired a shot from a tough angle that goalie Quick couldn't cover before it went into the net at the 7:38 mark.
At exactly the 10:00 mark, the Kings tied the game. Wayne Simmonds wheeled and shot from the right boards, and while goalie Craig Anderson was prone, Kopitar picked up the rebound and shot a sharp backhand.
Kopitar was credited with the goal, but video review that Brad Richardson tipped the puck before it went in the net. The goal was being reviewed by the league after the game.
The Kings' streak of 29 consecutive killed penalties ended with 6:39 remaining in the first period, with Richardson in the penalty box for a double-minor high-sticking penalty.
Video showed that Richardson’s stick was lifted by Colorado’s Kyle Quincey on the play, but it was still a penalty, and the Kings were left further shorthanded when Stoll broke his stick, and Milan Hejduk shot and scored from the left circle.
The Avalanche scored another power-play goal with 1:52 remaining in the first period. Doughty broke his stick and was playing with Michal Handzus' stick when Paul Stastny centered a puck. Doughty tried to push the puck behind the net but put it right into his own net to give Colorado a 3-1 lead. Ersberg replaced Quick after the goal.
``We were down two goals, but all we gave up was power-play chances,’’ Kopitar said. ``Five-on-five, I thought we didn't give up a whole lot. We got into penalty trouble and they buried two. The first one was kind of lucky, and the second one was off of Drew and in. But we said it. It was a two-goal game, and one shot and you're right back in the game.’’
After a scoreless second period, the Kings pulled within 3-2 with a power-play goal 40 seconds into the third period. Doughty shot from the middle of the ice, just inside the blue line, with heavy traffic in front and beat Anderson.
``When you get it to 3-2, it really gets you excited,’’ Murray said. ``The players started to get through the middle of the ice, and we got into the offensive zone. Frolov, to me, tonight was tremendous, holding onto the puck and cycling and taking a lot of pressure and making plays.
``That's the kind of game that he has to have, but that's just one player, out of the group, that was doing that. We got back to that net presence and shot mentality in the third period. I felt that, through the end of the second, that was not part of our mindset. It paid off at the end.’’
The Kings would outshoot the Avalanche 14-3 in the third period, and got a chance to tie the game when Colorado’s Brett Clark was called for holding with 2:49 to play.
With 32 seconds remaining in the power play, 1:21 remaining in the game and Ersberg on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Frolov deflected in a shot from Stoll to tie the game, leading to the shootout.
1 - 0 COL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 COL