RECAP: The Los Angeles Kings were unable to shake off the after-effects of the two-day Christmas break until the third period on Friday night as they dropped a 2-1 decision to the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center; features post-game audio interviews.
LOS ANGELES — Perhaps they went a bit overboard with their Christmas holiday celebrations, or maybe they just drank too much egg nog.
Whatever the reason, the Los Angeles Kings came out of the two-day Christmas break looking rather sluggish in a 2-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, disappointing an announced sell-out crowd of 18,118 fans at Staples Center on Friday night.
Coyotes center Peter Mueller converted a two-on-one break at 10:44 of the first period to give his team a 1-0 lead after one period.
Right wing Shane Doan gave the Coyotes a 2-0 lead on the power play, deflecting a point shot past Kings rookie goaltender Jonathan Quick at 17:43 of the second period.
The Coyotes had a relatively easy time controlling play in the first and second periods, controlling the neutral zone and winning the vast majority of loose puck battles.
“This was a nice effort for us,” said Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky. “As a player, the hardest game to play is always December 26 because you’ve been off a couple of days and you have a lot of family and friends around and then you’ve got to travel. So, for our guys to be as focused as they were tonight for that game and play as well as they did, I’m really happy for them.”
The Kings found their legs in the third period and finally started to win some physical battles. Defenseman-turned right wing Peter Harrold scored on the power play at the 8:49 mark, but the Kings were unable to tie the game on several high-quality scoring chances in the period, with Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov coming up with some big saves.
To be sure, it was another case of too little, too late for the Kings.
“You can’t play a game in the NHL where you play twenty minutes and expect to win,” said Kings head coach Terry Murray. “Those days are gone. You have come and play right from the very beginning. You have to play sixty minutes hard, intense and very heavy hockey.”
“In the first two periods we were not going,” added Murray. “We didn’t have it. The third period was what we needed for the sixty minutes.”
His players saw the game the exact same way.
“We were rusty in the first two [periods],” said Kings center Anze Kopitar. ”We didn’t play with as much energy as we did in our last game at Columbus. Maybe because we had two days off and we didn’t skate, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. Everybody should come here and be ready to go. It showed again. In this league, you have to play sixty minutes, not just twenty.”
“We didn’t play very good in the first two periods,” said Kings left wing Patrick O’Sullivan. “We had a good third…we were all over them. We got a big goal there. We got lots of chances but we have to be unhappy with how we played in the first two periods. We shouldn’t put ourselves in that situation.”
“It’s tough after a two-day break, but they were ready to play so there’s no reason why we couldn’t have been,” added O’Sullivan. “We’ve got to take the good third that we played and start tomorrow’s game [at Phoenix] like that.”
Team captain Dustin Brown said the players need to be accountable to each other and make sure they are prepared to play each game.
“That was a good third period, but at the end of the day, it’s another twenty-minute effort,” Brown lamented. “It’s just not good enough to come and play twenty minutes and that showed tonight. If we played the first two like we played the third, we dominate that game.”
“It just comes down to individuals preparing themselves for each and every game and being ready to play,” Brown stressed. “If everyone comes and is prepared mentally and physically to play, I think we can show that we can play sixty minutes.”
“I think when it comes to preparation, it’s up to an individual to get himself ready.”
There was one Kings player who was ready to go at the start of the game…rookie netminder Jonathan Quick.
“Our goaltender played very well,” said Murray. “He made a couple of very big stops. One on a two-on-one where we got caught—we were trying to do the right thing in the second period with our defensemen pinching. We were going to make a change and the puck just popped out and our centerman chased back. He made a tremendous save on that lateral move.”
The 22-year-old rookie also made an impression on his teammates.
“He played good in net, he made some good saves,” said Brown. “If you look at the two goals, one is a two-on-one back door and the other is a tip-in. He made some key saves, one in particular, it was on [Coyotes left wing Mikkel] Boedker. It was a pull-up shot in the third and he made a really good save on that.”
“In a two-goal game going into the third, it’s pretty much anybody’s game,” added Brown. We scored one but we came up short for the second one. He made the saves. We just didn’t come through at the other end. Like I said, it’s not about not scoring in the third. It’s about not playing in the first two.”
In four appearances, Quick is now 1-2-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and one shutout.
“He gave us a chance tonight,” said Murray. “He’s taken advantage of the opportunities he’s been given and we like what we see.”
As Murray indicated, Quick has made an impression and is expected to make his fourth consecutive start on Saturday night to finish the home-and-home series with the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
“It’s a great feeling,” Quick said about getting his third straight start on Friday night. “It shows that the coach has confidence in you. I’m just trying to help out and do what I can and keep the team in the game.”
In their last eleven meetings, the Kings are 3-8-0 against the Coyotes. To be sure, they have struggled badly against the Coyotes in recent years, but they are not thinking about that.
“For as long as I’ve been here, it seems like we have a hard time with this team,” said O’Sullivan. “Sometimes, that’s just how it is but we have to find a way to beat them tomorrow. If we start the game like we started the third, we’ll give ourselves a good chance.”
NOTES: Bryzgalov has beaten the Kings six consecutive times; O’Sullivan 16 points in his last 18 games (6 goals, 10 assists); Kopitar now has 11 points in the last 11 games (5 goals, 6 assists). He was also 13/18 (72.2%) on face-offs in the game.
Watch the highlights from this game courtesy of NHL.com:
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