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Kings Have a Devil of a Time

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No one expected the Kings’ shutout streak to last. Furthermore no one expected backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier to be playing out of his mind like Jonathan Quick has provided so far this season. No one even expected the Kings to keep winning. But what the Kings did on the ice in their 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils, that was embarrassing.

“It just wasn’t good enough tonight,” Dustin Brown said.

Throughout most of the game I was racking my brain trying to figure out how a team that allowed a league-best 1.29 goals per game could play so horrendously against a team that scored a league-worst 1.83 goals per game. Then the answer came to me on the television monitors up in the press box atop STAPLES Center. A certain Stratford, Ontario native attended the game wearing a Kings cap instead of the blue Maple Leafs cap that should have adorned that lettuce. It was the scourge of Justin Bieber.

Bieber aside, looking at the above stat would figure that the loss could be attributed to Bernier. After all, Bernier’s only other start was in Berlin, Germany where the Buffalo Sabres beat the Kings 4-2 on Oct. 8.

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But head coach Terry Murray was quick to dispel that notion.

“Bernier was fine,” Murray said. “This was not about the goaltending. This is all about managing the puck, turnovers and giveaways that ended up being easy goals against.”

Murray was right. The Kings looked off kilter from the opening faceoff and were clearly frustrated with New Jersey’s famous trapping game.

“They play a real defensive style,” defenseman Matt Greene said. “They capitalized on all of our mistakes. For a team that we don’t see very often, we played right into their game plan. They have that trap, and we went right into it.”

All three goals came off of turnovers by the Kings in a six-minute span in the latter part of the second period, the only part that Bieber watched incidentally enough. Dainus Zubrus’ first two goals of the season sandwiched Patrick Elias’ fourth of the season.

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“The bottom line again is that your best players on New Jersey, they’re the guys that determine the outcome of the game,” Murray bemoaned.

The miscues weren’t confined to the defensive zone or the giveaways, however. While it was still scoreless, Justin Williams’ shot from the top of the crease went wide right after Simon Gagné made a good centering pass from behind the net.

During the Devils power-play in the second period, Brown had an odd-man rush chance with Anze Kopitar alongside. From the right wing Brown made a cross-ice pass to Kopitar that missed the mark hitting the glass.

“What we need to avoid is a night like tonight where we’re not playing at our optimal level,” Brown said. “We have to compete there tonight. It wasn’t there the whole game.”

With a three-game road trip to finish out the month with the next two against divisional opponents Dallas and Phoenix, the Kings need to put this game behind them.

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“We have to forget about it and go,” Brown said. “It’s an 82-game season. It’s a long season.”

“Obviously we’ve got to learn from our mistakes,” Greene said. “We’ve got to watch tape and figure out what went wrong tonight and correct it. A lot of teams are playing this defensive style now where they’re just sitting back and waiting for you to make mistakes.”

And so ended the Kings 221 minute, 22 second shutout streak. In the process they were shutout for the first time since March 17 against the St. Louis Blues. But at least they still have a 21-game streak - 21 straight STAPLES Center sellouts dating back to last season. And hopefully they learned their lesson: keep the Bieber away.

Chicago Blackhawks defeat Anaheim Ducks 3-2 (SO)