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Jones' late-game magic can't shoulder the Kings in Nashville

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

Martin Jones’ late-game heroics weren’t quite enough to hurdle the Kings to a win Tuesday night as they fell 4-3 to the Nashville Predators in a shootout at Bridgestone Arena.

The Kings held their own against an extremely aggressive Nashville defense, which clogged up time, space, and the Kings’ power play – mixing in 17 blocked shots on the night to edge their way to a win.

“It’s a hard-fought point,” Darryl Sutter said of the Kings’ road performance. “We have to start scoring some shootout goals. It cost us on the road.”

Nashville struck for the first goal of the evening just over six minutes into the game when Craig Smith walked in alone on Martin Jones, beating the Kings’ goaltender with a low shot on a clear-cut breakaway sequence.

Smith snuck his way past Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin and received a perfect pass from Colin Wilson in-stride, giving the Predators an early 1-0 lead.

The Kings would answer just over five minutes later when Marian Gaborik set up Justin Williams with a soft touch pass as Williams entered Nashville’s zone with momentum.

Williams one-timed Gaborik’s pass into traffic in front of the Predators’ net, and Williams’ shot attempt ricochet off the skate of Jamie McBain and past Pekka Rinne to tie the score 1-1.

For McBain, it was his first goal in a Kings uniform. He now has two points (1G, 1A) in seven games with the club.

“I was just trying to jump up into the play, trying to make an odd-man rush for the forwards, drive to the net, and [the puck] just hit my foot,” McBain said of his goal. “It was nothing special, those are goals where you get rewarded for going to the net sometimes. I was the beneficiary that time, but I think anytime you go to the net with pucks and bodies good things are going to happen.”

Marian Gaborik put the Kings ahead just over a minute into the second period, scoring his fourth goal of the season, his second in four games.

As the Kings dug away low in their own zone looking for a breakout attempt, Jeff Carter eyed the speed and direction of Marian Gaborik as he exited the Kings’ zone. Carter sent a long chip pass high in the air into the neutral zone as Gaborik was in a heated foot race with Nashville’s Ryan Ellis. Gaborik beat Ellis to the puck and swiftly snapped a shot past Pekka Rinne high to the glove-side.

Gaborik’s goal gave the Kings a 2-1 lead; a lead they would hold onto until the final minutes of the second period.

With just over two minutes left to play in the middle frame, the Predators struck for two goals in a :54 second span to reclaim the lead. Nashville took a 3-2 lead into the final period, which has done well for them this season. The Predators came into the night 7-1-0 this season when leading after two periods.

Drew Doughty, though, tried to put that trend to bed, as he went on an end-to-end tear in the opening seconds of the third period to tie the game 3-3. Doughty, who played a Predators dump-in, turned the puck up ice and didn’t stop.

Once inside Nashville’s zone, three Predators defenders surrounded Doughty, who sense the pressure and rifled a wrist-shot through the skates of Anton Volchenkov. Pekka Rinne was screened on Doughty’s shot, and the puck beat Nashville’s goaltender right through the five-hole.

“I kind of saw throughout the first two periods that if I had a good opportunity and had some speed that I could probably get through the neutral zone and get to the offensive zone and make a play from there,” Doughty said of his game-tying goal. “So I saw a lot of ice, just tried to get the puck on net and I’m happy that it went in because I’ve really been trying to pick my spots lately and I’m not scoring goals that way. To get kind of a fluky one between the legs, that feels good.”

The Kings had two late power-play opportunities, but couldn’t pull the trigger on either of them. The Kings went 0-for-3 on the man-advantage.

For the seventh time this season, the Kings extended past regulation time to decided a contest.

In overtime, the Predators heavily outplayed the Kings, hitting a pair of posts, and missing by inches on a save made by Martin Jones.

Jones, who bailed the Kings out of a loss in the OT period, couldn’t do the same in the shootout, which lasted six rounds with only one shooter, Nashville’s James Neal, able to find the back of the net.

The Kings couldn’t beat Pekka Rinne on any of their six shootout attempts, and Neal’s marker in the sixth round notched the win for Nashville.

Prior to Neal’s goal, Martin Jones was a perfect 17-for-17 in denying shootout attempts in his NHL career.

Marian Gaborik led all Kings players in points attained (1G, 1A = 2), Marian Gaborik, Justin Williams, and Jeff Carter in shots taken (3), Jarret Stoll in hits delivered (4), Matt Greene in shots blocked (3), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (33:40). Martin Jones made 30 saves in the loss.

With the loss, the Kings’ record falls to 11-6-5, and their mark away from Los Angeles drops to 1-4-4. The Kings are now off to Minnesota, where they’ll take on the Wild Wednesday night at XCEL Energy Center as they put a cap on their current three-game road trip. The puck is slated to drop at 5:00PM PT.


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