Photo credit: Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports
The LA Kings lost to the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in Game 3 of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This was not a great, entertaining game. A lot of the game was played in the neutral zone, and with terrible ice conditions due to LA’s famous warm weather, neither team was really able to generate or sustain much momentum. The Kings fell prey to Bruce Boudreau‘s neutral zone trap game and couldn’t seem to get a whole lot going. Meanwhile, Anaheim was content to let the Kings play a sleepy game and took advantage on the power play. They did manage to score an even strength goal after Drew Doughty turned the puck over and Ben Lovejoy created a 2-on-1. The Kings made things interesting late in the game but Anaheim was fortunate to walk out with the win.
All the possession metrics heavily favored Los Angeles, but as usual, they can be cruel and misleading. Anaheim ended up generating more scoring chances than LA. However, the Kings did little with their excessive zone time and the Ducks were able to generate enough offense to win.
Los Angeles didn’t make any lineup changes but Anaheim did, sending Emerson Etem back to Norfolk and recalling defenseman Sami Vatanen. Kyle Palmieri drew in for Etem while Vatanen replaced Mark Fistric.
The first three goals were all scored on the power play, so it would behoove both teams to play with more discipline. In the first period, Trevor Lewis was called for interference and Corey Perry eventually scored a tic-tac-toe goal on the power play.
In the second period, Devante Smith-Pelly got a little careless and took a high sticking penalty. It didn’t take long before Jeff Carter scored on a fairly similar play that Perry scored on. Anze Kopitar extended his point streak to 10 games in the postseason and picked up his league leading 15th point as well. Later in the period, Drew Doughty got called for hooking and the Teemu Selanne scored on a 4 on 3 power play.
Midway through the third period, Frederik Andersen, who’d drawn into the lineup for Jonas Hiller (because Andersen has a perfect record in two games at Staples Center, which is an interesting rationalization since goaltending is still not Anaheim’s problem), went down with an injury and did not finish the game. While Andersen was down, Slava Voynov had a golden opportunity to tie the game when he was presented with an empty net, but fanned on the puck.
Everything remained the same until the very end of the period when the aforementioned Doughty and Lovejoy combination happened and the Ducks scored (it was not a great goal for Jonathan Quick to give up, who’d been stellar all night).
After putting 26 shot attempts toward the net in 10 playoff games, Mike Richards made things interesting by scoring with 30 seconds remaining after the goaltender was pulled, but the Kings came up short and were unable to make up the two goal deficit.
LA’s Defensive Woes
With Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell both on the shelf due to injury, Jeff Schultz and Matt Greene have been fairly solid. They play low event hockey, which is OK, but it’s not really helping LA’s speed game much. Voynov’s season-long struggle (he’s been mostly OK defensively, but his offense has really tanked this season) has never been more noticeable than it was in Game 3 with the missed net perfectly emulating his team’s frustration. While Regehr and Mitchell were certainly not what you’d think of as “fast,” they seemed to be able to make up for it with sound positioning and an ability to read the play, which would allow them to make adjustments on the fly.
In the absence of their top two penalty killing defensemen, it’s imperative for the Kings to stay out of the penalty box. While the officiating has been less than consistent throughout the series, it would greatly benefit them to maintain strict discipline. Their defense also needs to step up and be better. While Doughty has been fantastic, he alone cannot do the job of five other defensemen. To this point, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez have been good, but they’ll need to be even better if LA wants to extend their playoff run.
Game 4 will be Saturday, May 10th at 6:30 pm PT. The start time for Game 5, which will be on Monday, May 12th is still TBD.