Anze Kopitar hopped around STAPLES Center on crutches, putting in an appearance for Fan Appreciation Night with a bulky cast covering his right foot and lower leg.
Perhaps the Kings can put a skate on the bottom of that thing?
The regular season is done and the first round of the playoffs awaits, and with it will come a significant question: how are the Kings going to score enough to win? It's a challenge they will have to meet, and they didn't seem to have many answers Saturday night as they lost to the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 before a standing-room-only crowd of 18,203.
The Kings outshot the Ducks 44-20 but were trailing by three goals before the game was even half over, and the frustration spilled over late when equipment littered the ice and 26 penalty minutes were handed out, including two fights taking place simultaneously.
The Kings will learn their postseason season fate Sunday morning, after the game between Chicago and Detroit. If the Blackhawks earn at least one point, the Kings will finish eighth in the Western Conference and face Vancouver in the first round. If the Blackhawks lose in regulation, the Kings will finish seventh and play San Jose.
``We could have finished fourth, and now we'll finish seventh or eighth,'' Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ``But at the end of the day, we're in the playoffs and it's a new season. We're going to hit the reset button and get ready to go, because now all the 82 games we just played are irrelevant.''
To be certain, this isn't the way the Kings wanted to head into the playoffs. Sitting pretty in fourth place just a week earlier, the Kings finished the regular season with a 1-3-0 record and totaled only five goals in their final five regular-season games.
The Kings missed a chance Saturday night to finish fourth in the conference and earn home-ice advantage in the first round. Losses by Nashville and Phoenix opened the door for fourth place but the Ducks, not the Kings, walked through that door.
After the Kings had more than seven minutes of power-play time in the first period, without a goal, the Ducks scored twice in the final seven minutes of the period, then took a 3-0 lead on Francois Beauchemin's second-period goal. That back-breaking goal came seconds after Brown failed to score on a shorthanded breakaway.
Ryan Smyth scored a power-play goal late in the second period, but the Kings couldn't beat Ducks goalie Dan Ellis in the third period. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick didn't face much sustained pressure, but the Ducks beat him three times on 20 shots on goal.
Both of the Kings' potential first-round opponents, San Jose and Vancouver, have high-powered offenses, so either way, the Kings figure to severely challenged to play the type of low-scoring, tight-checking games that they seem to be most comfortable in.
``Right now, we have to find a way to put the puck in the net,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``When you have that many opportunities and you’re not scoring, you start gripping the stick a little too hard.''
The Kings might get a boost if Justin Williams, who has missed nine consecutive games with a dislocated shoulder, is able to return for the start of the first round. Williams was scheduled for a medical evaluation Saturday night and, if he is cleared to play, Williams might be able to return for the first game, wearing a shoulder harness.
For a Kings team that is without its leading scorer -- Kopitar, who tore ankle ligaments in a game last month -- anyone who can score will be welcomed with open arms.
``We need 20 players every night,'' Brown said. ``We don't have the type of team that can get by if we don't have everyone. We need everyone going, and secondly we need to find ways to score goals. The first one kind of leads to the second one. If we have everyone going, it kind of makes it easier on everyone to produce chances and goals. We need 20 players.''
The Kings scored on their sixth power play of the game, after having gone 0-for-20 on the power play in their previous six-plus games. By that point, though, the Kings already found themselves facing a three-goal deficit.
After the Kings failed to score on their initial three power plays, the Ducks took a 1-0 lead with 6:33 remaining in the first period, on a 4-on-4 goal. Brandon McMillan won a faceoff in the Kings' zone and found a clean path to the net. Quick stopped the shot, but McMillan knocked the rebound out of the air and into the net. After a video review, officials ruled that McMillan did not knock in the puck with a high stick.
The Ducks took a 2-0 lead just over two minutes after they took the lead, with a power-play goal. Corey Perry held the puck near the front of the net and fed a perfect backdoor pass to Saku Koivu, who was unmarked and tapped the puck into an open net with 4:19 remaining in the first period.
``The opportunity was there early in the game,'' Murray said. ``We had a couple of power plays, we had some pretty good momentum there. We’re not scoring on the power play, but at least some things are starting to go on the offensive zone, and we take a too many men on the ice, and that was a tough one. Kills the momentum, I thought, and now they end up with a 5-on-3 coming out of that. It’s a tough situation to start off at home. That was just a disappointing part of it at the start.''
Francois Beauchemin's goal gave the Ducks a 3-0 lead in the second period. After Ellis stopped Brown on a shorthanded breakaway attempt, the Ducks brought the puck into the Kings' zone. Koivu passed the puck high to Beauchemin, whose slap shot from the left point beat Quick 8:54 into the second period.
The Kings got on the scoreboard with a power-play goal with 1:36 remaining in the second period. Drew Doughty shot from the left point and Smyth, parked in front of the net, got a deflection. The puck bounced off the crossbar, then hit Ellis and wobbled over the line to cut the Ducks' lead to 3-1. Jack Johnson also got an assist, for his 100th career NHL point.
That's how the game ended up, a result that ensured that the Ducks would finish fourth and the Kings would finish seventh or eight and draw either San Jose or Vancouver.
``Vancouver and San Jose are top teams,'' Brown said. ``Vancouver has been the top team all year, so it only makes it more difficult, but it's the NHL playoffs. I don't think there's going to be an easy series for anybody. Chicago is going to be seventh or eighth, too, I believe, so when you look at it from that standpoint, the 1 and 2 teams are probably not real happy. There are no easy series. We put ourselves in this position. Now we've got to go from there.''
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