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Los Angeles Kings Hit A Wall…Face First

LOS ANGELES — Loui Eriksson scored two goals, Stephane Robidas scored a goal and added two assists, and Jere Lehtinen scored a goal and added an assist to lead the Dallas Stars to an easy 7-2 blowout victory over the hapless Los Angeles Kings in front of 17,849 fans during a matinee contest at Staples Center on Saturday.

Stu Barnes, Brendan Morrow and Niklas Hagman also scored for the Stars, who also got multi-point performances from Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards and Mattias Norstrom.

Kevin Dallman and Michael Cammalleri scored for the Kings.

After Dallman opened the scoring at 6:09 of the first period when he converted a two-on-one feed from Dustin Brown for his third goal of the season, the Kings completely fell apart, allowing seven straight goals, including one in the first period, four in the second period and two in the third period.

The Stars also scored three times on seven power play chances.

By the time Cammalleri scored in the third period, the Kings were looking up at a 7-1 lead with less than three minutes left in the game.

Whether it was a blown defensive coverage or being constantly beaten to loose pucks, the Kings were always a step or two behind the Stars who flew around the ice at will, totally dominating play.

Kings head coach Marc Crawford explained that his team had little to give in the Saturday afternoon contest.

“I think what happened more than anything was that our team hit a wall today,” said Crawford. “When we hit the wall, and you’re playing against a team that’s desperate and really kind of found themselves, that’s what happens when those paths cross.”

“We’ve squeezed a lot out of our team,” added Crawford. “This was three games in three-and-one-half days. The explanation is our guys had not very much energy tonight. The guys who played hard were the guys who had experience like [Jon] Klemm, like [Rob] Blake, and the guys who are great skaters like Brown. You noticed at least some of the great skaters in the game on our part. That was the difference.”

Indeed, the Kings looked totally gassed. As reported earlier, they were at least one step behind after they opened the scoring. Kings players were doing a lot of reaching and standing around, not moving their feet on defense—often good indicators of fatigue.

“There’s no excuse,” Crawford explained. “You never like to play in front of your fans and get beat like that, but our guys ran out of gas today. They’ve played their tails off here of late and today, they didn’t have anything.”

The tired Kings blew defensive zone coverages throughout the game, giving the Stars one easy goal after another, victimizing goalies Erik Ersberg and Daniel Taylor, who played in the third period.

“There’s no excuse for missed coverages because when you’re tired, you want your coverage to be good, and we had a few coverage mistakes,” said Crawford. “And let’s face it. A few of the pucks squeezed through our goaltender tonight, and those are the ones that, in all these other games that we’ve been winning, have been sticking to him.”

“They’re a good team, and when they get chances on power play they’re going to score sometimes,” said Ersberg. “I didn’t have my best game. We had a breakdown in our game the second period. That’s how it goes when you fall asleep against a team like Dallas. They’re going to punish you.”

Crawford was not placing any blame on Ersberg’s shoulders.

“I think he’s a by-product of the team,” he explained. “His game was very much like the team’s game. He squeezed as much as he could out of the game. I didn’t think he was sharp even in the first period. We were fortunate that they didn’t score on a couple of other occasions.”

“There were some that he’d like to have back,” Crawford added. “But he’s played his tail off for us. He’s been a real nice revelation for us and now his job is to bounce back.”

“We did hit a wall today. We have squeezed a lot out of our guys lately and now, they’ve just got to bounce back. That’s the important thing to do. It’s one that you’ve got to park and you’ve got to move forward from. The best thing for us is that we have a day off tomorrow and we do get to get some guys rejuvenated. There’s nobody who’s happy with how we played today, but they really didn’t have a lot more to squeeze out of themselves.”

So after laying such a huge egg, primarily due to fatigue, do you just forget about it and move on?

Almost.

“We’re going to look at the game and get any teaching points, especially for our younger players, that are there,” said Crawford. “There are definitely some teaching points on when you’re tired, you want to play to tight defensively that you’re not expending a lot of energy because your positioning is really sound.”

As for the Stars, who had been struggling of late, the Kings just might have been the tonic that cures what ails them.

“For us especially, we’ve been struggling for awhile and all of a sudden, we’re looking a little bit behind us at the teams who can actually catch us,” said Norstrom. “But two nights ago and today were two big games for us and we got three out of four points, so we feel a little bit better about ourselves now.”

“You want to go into the playoffs playing good hockey and establish a lot of positive things,” added Norstrom. “We still have time to do that. But looking around, you have a few teams playing real well right now, especially San Jose. For us, it was a real good test two nights ago (at San Jose) and today, it was good that we got a big win and little confidence going.”

But things started a bit on the shaky side for the Stars.

“They scored the first goal—that was a little wake-up call there, even if we were playing better until they scored,” said Ribeiro. “We got off to a good start in the second period and from there, the power play scored some goals and the penalty-kill did the job too. It was a great effort.”

And after some poor third-period efforts in recent games, the Stars had that shocking. come-from-way-ahead 6-5 overtime loss to the Kings back on November 10. 2007 at Staples Center.

“We thought about the first game here when they came back so we still had to push,” Ribeiro explained. “But to have that lead going into the third period, it was easier to focus and finish and close the game out. We played pretty well in the third.”

“The reality of it is that they don’t have much to play for,” said Stars goaltender Marty Turco, who faced just fourteen shots. “I mean, they’re a talented team so you’ve got to be super-cautious against them. But when guys are playing that hard and that intense and that focused like we did, it’s pretty hard for the other team to generate much.”

“It was pretty obvious the focus of the crew,” added Turco. “Now, we need more of the same. It’s something to build on, to say the least, but we need more. We’re in a lockdown mode. The beauty of the whole game was not the score, but how the game went down—just the relentlessness of every period and every facet of the game. It’s great to see. But that’s what we expect, really. And that’s why it’s so disappointing when we don’t get it—because we know what we can do. Today was a great example of what we need to do every shift from now on.”

Stars head coach Dave Tippett echoed his goaltender’s thoughts.

“I thought we dictated from the first shift in the second, and in the third period, we just said let’s do the same thing—let’s dictate the play,” said Tippett. “When they’re down by that many goals, they have to take chances, and we talked about using those chances against them.”

“We did some good things, but we recognize that we still have to continue to improve,” added Tippett. “Today was another step in that process. We’ve been finding ways to shoot ourselves in the foot, but today we were a very determined team.”

“When we were on the power play, we got our chances. If we didn’t get a goal, we were generating momentum. We started the game well and carried it through. It was a strong effort and we’ll need to do it again tomorrow [at Anaheim].”

“It was a team game, and everybody chipped in,” said Robidas. “That’s what we need. As long as everyone is chipping in and playing well, I like our chances.”

A side story in this game was the National Hockey League debut of 21-year-old Kings goaltending prospect Daniel Taylor, who was recalled from the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League just two days prior.

Taylor received quite the rude welcome as the first NHL shot he faced came from Lehtinen on a breakaway.

First NHL shot, first goal allowed.

“It was kind of overwhelming,” said Taylor. “I kind of wanted a nice, easy one right in the belly to start off with and then have the breakaways or whatever. It was a tough one. We’ll take it in stride, and hopefully, we’ll rebound from this. I know it’s the first game, but it’s kind of bittersweet how we lost. It’s an experience I’ll never forget for sure.”

Taylor was not expecting to see any action on Saturday, but was pressed into service to give the beleaguered Ersberg a rest.

“I didn’t find out until about four or five minutes before the period started that I’d be going in, so I didn’t have time to get nervous,” he said. “I had to get all my gear ready and everything like that.”

And boy, did he want to have his first shot faced in the NHL a save.

“Definitely, that first shot, I would’ve liked to have stopped. That was pretty good shot, too. He put it right up under the bar.”

Welcome to the NHL, Daniel Taylor.

NOTES: The Kings tied an unofficial record when Taylor entered the game. He became the seventh goalie to appear in a game for the Kings this season. The 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques and the 2002-03 St. Louis Blues share the record with the Kings, who have had Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Jonathan Bernier, Dan Cloutier, Erik Ersberg, Jason LaBarbera, Jonathan Quick, and now, Daniel Taylor, see action in goal this season.


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