Two one-goal losses in a row on the road would drive most coaches mad. And while Los Angeles Kings coach Todd McLellan appears to have retained his sanity, he nonetheless is frustrated. McLellan loves the comeback they made in Thursday’s 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers, but it’s how things began that was irksome.
For fans, it’s the horror of watching a 4-0 deficit unfold. To McLellan, it was a clear case of his players not following through with what they worked on. In simpler words, really, they didn’t show up ready.
“The comeback part is in our DNA,” McLellan told Jon Rosen of LAKingsInsider.com after the loss in South Florida. “It’s been there the whole year. It shouldn’t go anywhere. It should always be there. That part, I tip my hat to the guys, but everything that went into the game, I’m really disappointed. The details we had and the adjustments that we tried to make in the first period were nonexistent. It was like the guys weren’t even in the meeting, and that’s really important. … The mistakes we made, disappointed. We haven’t shown that in a long time.”
So true. In the ups and downs of the last few months, the Kings haven’t given up more than four goals in regulation since Oct. 30, a stretch of 36 games. That stat backs up McLellan’s claim that the team doesn’t typically make a ton of mistakes.
One of the biggest mistakes evident against the Panthers (25-16-5, 55 points, fourth place in the Atlantic Division) was that the Kings (18-26-5, 41) generally gave the Florida players too much room to make things happen. The first three goals came on bing-bing plays. The last was after a turnover.
Sizzling Comeback Saved Game From a Total Disaster
Imagine, then, how McLellan would be feeling if the score got worse than 4-0? But it didn’t. Drew Doughty was a catalyst in Los Angeles’ three-goal third period. He was credited with one assist, but the Kings’ first two goals were set up on his wrist shots from the point. Alex Iafallo tipped in the first one. Adrian Kempe was credited with the second one.
Later, Anze Kopitar’s rebound goal put the Kings just one down with 2:40 to go. Lots of Los Angeles pressure after that didn’t lead to a tying goal.
On Tuesday, the Kings failed in an attempt to hold a 3-2 lead and wound up losing to Tampa Bay in a shootout, 4-3. Nikita Kucherov’s boomer from the right point after a beautiful face-off win was the tying goal with a pulled goalie and a 6-on-5 skater advantage with just more than a minute left. Steven Stamkos’ filthy top-corner goal off the crossbar past Jonathan Quick was the shootout winner.
Win that face-off and perhaps it’s a different story. That’s the way it’s been going for these Kings, where the small things end up making a huge difference in outcomes.
McLellan: Kings’ Needle Pointed The Right Way
McLellan talked to Rosen about where the team was at after that loss to Tampa.
“When we talk about a month or two months’ work, is the needle going in the right direction? I believe it is. We’re going to have ebbs and flows, we’re going to have ups and downs, we’re going to play against some really good teams, which we are right now. You look at the combined home records of these teams we’re playing on this road trip, starting in Vegas, it’s pretty darn strong. And there was a time earlier in the year when we struggled, we couldn’t come close on the road. So, overall, big picture, macro, yes. Micro? I don’t know how much the needle moved tonight, but it is going in the right direction.”Todd McLellan, Kings coach, to LAKingsInsider.com
The Philadelphia Flyers game Saturday to end the five games in nine days trip is Los Angeles’ last game before the All-Star break. It will be a big test. A victory may go a long way toward gaining momentum in the second half of the season for a possible run toward the playoffs.
But the playoffs threshold is far off and the room for error is getting smaller with every loss. Los Angeles is on a three-game skid and is 3-6-1 in its last 10.
“It’s the desperation part that kicked in in the second half of the third,” Kopitar told the Associated Press about the late surge against Florida. “We’ve got to figure out how to bring that to the start of games.”
Still, the Kings did put the fear into the Panthers. “We needed two points at home,” Florida’s Brian Boyle told the AP. “It’s a good lesson to see how quickly it can get away from you.”
The Kings learned all about how things can get away from you in the late letdown against the Lightning (28-15-4, 60 points, second place in the Atlantic Division).
ESPN Ranks Kings Fourth from the Bottom in NHL
ESPN has Los Angeles 28th out of 31 teams in its latest power rankings. The Southern California rival Anaheim Ducks (18-24-5, 41 points), with whom the Kings are tied for last place in the Pacific Division, are 30th. A 1-3 start to the road trip is not what the Kings were looking for. They don’t want to end it 1-4.
To beat the Flyers (25-17-6, 56 points, tied for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division) and get the desperately needed two points, Los Angeles would be wise to improve on finishing. The Kings outshot Tampa Bay 41-38 and Florida 30-26 and didn’t get any points in the standings to show for it.
Defensively, Los Angeles must have an answer for two Philadelphia 40-plus point scorers — Sean Couturier (13 goals, 28 assists) and Travis Konecny (15 goals, 25 assists).
The Flyers lost 4-1 to the Montreal Canadiens (21-21-7, 49 points, fifth place in the Atlantic Division) on Thursday. On Jan. 29 — after Kopitar plays in the All-Star Game for the fifth time — the Kings get another shot at the Lightning, this time at Staples Center to start the second half of the season.