Game 31: Sluggish Kings downed by undermanned Blackhawks

Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick watches the puck go into the net on a goal by Chicago Blackhawks' Fernando Pisani (15) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

Chicago Blackhawks' John Scott (32) takes a punch from Los Angeles Kings' Kevin Westgarth (19) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)Game 31: Blackhawks 3, Kings 2

Click here for the Hockeywood Dailies videos of this game.

A lot has transpired for the Kings since their last meeting with the defending Stanley Cup champion  Chicago Blackhawks.

The Kings were able to vanquish their annual Western Conference adversaries, the Detroit Red Wings, twice in spirited battles. The Kings have been enjoying the December the Dismember, winning at a 71 percent clip (5 wins out of 7). 

The Blackhawks still hold the swagger of hoisting the Stanley Cup, and were coming off an emotional win over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. However, they were skating without star forwards Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. So there was blood in the water for the opportunistic Kings.

The third meeting between these two teams was a slobberknocker. The Blackhawks drew first blood when Jonathan Towes scored his 15th of the season. It wasn't as pretty as Kyle Clifford's goal that tied up the game in the second period, which left Kings' fans salivating at the possibilities that they have a true skilled power forward and not another pair of knuckles.

Frustratingly less than 30 seconds later, the Blackhawks skated down and scored again. Something glaring came into focus: the pairing of Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson didn't work Sunday night. It's not a stretch to say that these two talented players play the same type of game. Granted, the Kings were down two defensemen Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene. Coach Terry Murray had to do something to stop the high-powered offense of Chicago. They only have so many different combos they can roll out with the personnel they have right now.

It was the second of back-to-back games for L.A., which is not an excuse. back-to-backs are a part of today's game. In a perfect world, there would be no back-to-back matchups. But in this world of shared arenas, multimillion dollar TV deals and other factors, the NHL will continue to be forced into the schedule of an NBA team, even though they play as hard as an NFL team.

Consistency is key for a winning team, and the Kings have been the opposite of that the past week. They surprised the Red Wings by shutting them out at the Joe, then meandered aimlessly against the Blue Jackets. They found the focus in their matchup against the Predators, only to fall in Chicago.

The Kings have a chance to finish this trip over the river and through the woods on a good note, skating into the mile-high confines of the Pepsi Center. Will they win? Will they falter? It'll be their toughest matchup of the trip, considering the Avalanche are the top-scoring team in the league, with a deadly power play. The Kings' goals against is nothing to scoff at, and they have an equally deadly penalty kill. One thing's for sure, the fans will benefit from this late December diversion.

Los Angeles Kings' Anze Kopitar (11) fights for the puck with Chicago Blackhawks' Duncan Keith (2) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)• AP: Disciplined Blackhawks beat Kings for second straight win
Toews, the Blackhawks captain, has helped pick up some slack offensively as Chicago skated again without star forwards Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Toews added an assist Sunday and has four goals and six assists Chicago's last seven games.
• LA Times: Kings don't have the goods in 3-2 loss to the Blackhawks
The Kings attacked well in spurts, defended well in spurts, and did enough things right Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks to realize that consistency — or their maddening lack of it — will determine their fate this season.
• LAKings.com: Kings lose to Blackhawks 3-2  
The Kings, for the most part, didn't play all that poorly in the first two periods, but they were far from great, particularly in the second period. Perhaps feeling the loss of injured defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, the Kings did a subpar job of clearing the front of the net, which allowed the Blackhawks to create traffic in front of Jonathan Quick.
• NHL.com: Disciplined Hawks top Kings, stay strong at home  
The Kings got early goals from Kyle Clifford in the second period and Wayne Simmonds in the third, but dropped into ninth place in the Western Conference with the loss, one point behind the Ducks and two in back of the Sharks and Blackhawks.
• Chicago Tribune: 'Solid' win just fine with Blackhawks
Fernando Pisani's score on a 3-on-2 had to hold up quite a while after the Kings' Wayne Simmonds scored in the first two minutes of the final period. While the night might not have matched Stanley Cup parade-worthy levels of excellence, it was better than going in the other direction.
• Chicago Sun-Times: Hawks’ strong ‘D’ means business
Toews’ line with Sharp (two assists) and Troy Brouwer gave the Kings problems. Brouwer (seven hits) may not have officially factored in a goal, but he was in front of goalie Jonathan Quick (21 saves) for goals by Toews and Keith.  The Kings’ top defensive pairing of Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson was on the ice for all three Hawks goals.
CHICAGO - DECEMBER 19: Dustin Brown #23 of the Los Angeles Kings slams Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks into the boards on December 19, 2010 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)They said it
"In this league you've got to play 60 minutes and that second period was not even close to where we need to play," Kopitar said. "The third one was good again. We were all over them. We had chances. But when you're chasing down it's not easy, especially against these guys. … They're a good team. There's no secret to it. And we're a good team if we play 60 minutes.” – Anze Kopitar, on the game.
“We’re pretty disappointed in ourselves here. We need to come out and play more consistent. We need to play as a team better. Our all-around game, there’s no excuses. We just have to be better.” – Kyle Clifford, on the game.
“No, I wasn’t thinking that. When the puck is coming from the blue line, the way it did on that particular play, I think we’ve just got to cover shot lanes, from everybody. It’s the responsibility of a forward and a D-man. Sometimes you’re going to block them and other times they’re going to find the goaltender. Tonight it found the high blocker side, under the crossbar. Unfortunate that they got that goal, actually. I thought, maybe, we should have done a better job before that play came back to our own end.” – Coach Terry Murray, on whether defensemen should have cleared the front of the net better.
"We'll take it. We did what we had to do here, but we don't want to get too excited. I don't think we're in a position to feel good about ourselves yet." – Coach Joel Quenneville, on the game.

 

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