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Kings Still Can't Get Past Habs
In front of a sold out Staples Center crowd of 18,118, the Kings did not take advantage of scoring opportunities in their 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Kings head coach Terry Murray wants more from his team as they make a push to their first playoff berth since the 2001-2002 season.
“We played fine but we were just playing the game,” Murray said. “And you can’t just play the game right now. You’ve got to play with an attitude.”
The same sloppy puck handling in their zone that has crept up in the two games since the Olympic break reared its ugly head early in the game. A turnover after a faceoff in the neutral zone cost the Kings 22 seconds into the game when Canadiens rightwinger Brian Gionta wristed the puck past goalie Jonathan Quick.
“The start clearly wasn’t good,” forward Anze Kopitar said.
Kopitar hit it dead on as the Canadiens outshot the Kings 8-1 in the first five minutes of the game.
But the Kings would fight their way back into the game getting behind the Montreal defense to get some good shots on goalie Jaraslov Halak. Their persistence paid off as Anze Kopitar scored on an assist by Jack Johnson, Ryan Smyth with 1:44 left in the period to go into the first intermission tied.
As the momentum from the end of the first period died, the frailty of the Kings game was on display when by the end of the second period they failed to score on four power play opportunities. The nadir came in the first power play of the second period at the 4:43 mark the Canadiens Dominic Moore scored a shorthanded goal
“In the second period we had some power play opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on,” Kopitar said. “They also came back and scored a shorthanded goal which was frustrating. I don’t know what it is. We’re not going to try to find excuses for this, but we need to get better. That’s the bottom line.”
“In today’s game you need to capitalize on special teams, and we didn’t do that,” forward Ryan Smyth added. “We gave up on it, and it’s unacceptable.”
Halak thought the penalty killing was the key to the game.
“We gave up some power plays, but we killed them all,” Halak said. “I think that made the difference at the end of the game.”
The Canadiens would give Halak an easier time when they came out of the second intermission with a quick goal scored by Benoit Pouliot 36 seconds into the third period to push the lead to 3-1.
The tension in the arena was palpable as around 20% of the crowd was Canadiens fans. When they would chant, “Go Habs Go,” the Kings fans would drown them out in boos.
The Kings tried to come back with Fredrik Modin scoring his first goal as King since being acquired by Columbus on Wednesday on an assist by Michal Handzus and Randy Jones 7:12 in the third period.
But in the end they couldn’t muster the offense. When they pulled Quick with 1:30 left in the game for an extra attacker, Tomas Plkanec scored an empty netter with 1:11 left in the game.
It was clear the Kings were not playing the intensity needed for a playoff bound team.
“As I said to the players, the playoffs just don’t start now in the middle of April,” Murray said. “They start in March in this league now.”
“Everyone’s desperate to get into the playoffs and have the best seed possible,” Kopitar said. “There are going to be hard games. No matter who we play it’s going to be hard. We just need to get ready for it.”
This marks the Kings first loss against a Northeast Division team and only their fourth loss against an Eastern Conference team.
The Kings are back to fifth place in the Western Conference with 80 points, tied with the Colorado Avalanche. They face the Columbus Blue Jackets Monday before heading on the road to Chicago and Dallas next week.