The Kings and Detroit Red Wings traded roundhouse punches early in Saturday’s game. The Kings didn’t get up.
After a shorthanded goal that should have given them tremendous momentum against a Detroit team that has been weak on the road this season, the Kings became shockingly uninspired and it cost them in a 4-1 loss to the Red Wings in front of a sellout crowd of 18,118 at STAPLES Center.
The Kings had their winning streak ended at three games. During that run, the Kings consistently had an impressive forecheck and did a good job of putting pressure on the opposing goalie. But not on Saturday.
Mike Richards scored a shorthanded goal for the second consecutive game, and the Kings led 6:37 into the game. That would prove to be the final highlight, though, as Detroit quickly counterpunched and didn’t stop punching.
Just 37 seconds after Richards’ goal, Pavel Datsyuk scored a power-play goal to tie the game. The Kings did well merely to keep the game tied 1-1 at the first intermission, but in the second period, the Red Wings skated, hit and shot -- a 17-7 margin in favor of Detroit -- while the Kings resembled spectators.
Niklas Kronwall scored a power-play goal 7:08 into the period and Justin Abdelkader scored a back-breaking goal was less than five minutes left in the period as the Red Wings took a 3-1 lead into the third period. Datsyuk added his second goal with less than five minutes remaining in the third period.
``They capitalized on turnovers and we didn’t,’’ Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. ``When you play these guys, there are shifts when you’re in your zone for a little while, but tonight it was way too much. We turned pucks over and played right into their game. They had a great game. A lot of their guys were playing really well. We played right into their system like that, so they’re going to have great success.''
With the afternoon start, the Kings were basically playing their third game in less than 66 hours. That’s the only reasonable excuse for an all-around effort that seemed lacking in the final two periods.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick allowed a stoppable goal, which happened to be Abdelaker’s all-important third goal, but otherwise held up well and made 34 saves. After the first period, the Kings put only sporadic pressure on Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, and squandered the few chances they did get.
Just past the 11-minute mark of the second period, Anze Kopitar was awarded a penalty shot, but Howard made a glove save on the backhand attempt. Less than two minutes later, the Kings had a shot ring off the post. Three minutes after that, the Red Wings scored to take a two-goal lead.
``(The penalty-shot miss) was a critical time, but I would answer today that it was a small part of it, the missed opportunity there to score,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``Things turned after they made it 1-1. They scored right away on the power play after we got a short-handed goal. That, I thought, was really going to be a huge momentum boost for us.
``They score right away and started to feed off of some of the turnovers and some of the decisions that we made to get the puck back to them. They're covering you over the top so well. As a veteran hockey club, they came right after us with a lot of momentum. By the end of the second period, they had the game going the way they wanted and we ended up chasing it.''
The Kings won three of four games from Detroit last season, and the Red Wings had lost five consecutive road games, but the Kings know better than to expect an easy game against a veteran Detroit team.
Still, the Kings grabbed tremendous momentum early.
The Kings' Justin Williams took a tripping penalty, and both teams got goals on the ensuing Detroit power play. First, off a faceoff, Richards outraced two Red Wings to the puck and beat Howard with a close-range backhand shot. Richards' unassisted shorthanded goal gave the Kings a 1-0 lead at the 6:37 mark.
Richards now has 25 career shorthanded goals -- among his 141 career goals -- and became the first Kings player since Ziggy Palffy (in 2001) to record shorthanded goals in consecutive games.
Just 37 seconds after Richards' goal, the Red Wings tied the game on the power play. Nicklas Lidstrom took a point shot with Tomas Holmstrom running traffic in front. Datsyuk then picked up the rebound in front and scored from close range to make it a 1-1 game at the 7:14 mark.
``They put a lot of water on the fire right away,’’ said of Datsyuk’s goal, ``and it just seemed like we never got our legs going after that. That was maybe the one thing that disappointed me as much as anything in the game, is that we were not skating anywhere near the way we skated in the last three games. They recognized it and they took advantage of us.’’
Detroit took the lead with a power-play goal 7:08 into the second period. Kronwall went to the front of the net, past Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, and found an open spot as he took a centering pass from Tomas Holmstrom and beat Quick on a close-range one-timer to give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead.
After Kopitar failed to score on a penalty shot and the Kings failed to score on the power play, the Red Wings took a 3-1 lead with 4:22 remaining in the second period. A pass from Brendan Smith sparked a 2-on-1, and Abdelkader beat Quick with a wrist shot from the right side.
Detroit took a 4-1 lead with 4:54 left in the third period. After a scrum in the corner of the Kings' zone, Datsyuk picked up the puck in the right circle, made a quick move toward the net and scored on a wrist shot.
1 - 0 LAK
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DET
3 - 1 DET
4 - 1 DET