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Kings falter in the third, fall 4-2 in Anaheim

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

– Third period struggles saw the Kings squander a two-goal lead in a 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks Friday night at Honda Center.

Although the Kings found themselves up by a pair after 40 minutes of play, it was the Ducks who were winning close battles, finishing checks, crashing the net, and firing pucks into traffic. The Ducks more than doubled the Kings’ hit count (52-25) while firing away for 32 shots to the Kings’ 22.

“I think [Anaheim’s] forecheck overwhelmed us the whole night,” Darryl Sutter noted following the game. “And it caught up with us.”

Trevor Lewis gave the Kings a 1-0 lead with just under five minutes to play in the first, scoring his eighth goal of the season. Lewis received a stretch pass from Robyn Regehr in the neutral zone, drove the puck wide while fighting his way through a Francois Beauchemin check, then drove to the slot and beat John Gibson with a wrist shot.

The Kings didn’t register a single shot on Gibson through the first ten-plus minutes of the second period, but when they finally did, it produced their second goal of the evening. After circling behind Anaheim’s net, Anze Kopitar found Brayden McNabb with a pass atop the point, and the Kings’ defenseman fired a shot into traffic that ricochet off of Hampus Lindholm and past John Gibson.

For McNabb, it was his first goal as a member of the Kings, and his second-career NHL goal. McNabb’s only other goal came on December 26, 2011 when he was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.

Anaheim struck for the first time just under five minutes into the third period, and they didn’t stop. The Ducks tied the game with a pair of goals in a 1:30 span, then tacked on a couple more, including an empty-netter with 24 seconds left to play.

“I think we slowly got away from our game a little bit, got away from the things that were winning us games previously,” Jeff Carter said following the loss. “This is a tough one. Joner played really good for us tonight and gave us a chance to get ahead. It’s tough to take.”

The Kings are now 1-1-2 against the Ducks this season; this was the first time this season that a matchup between the two clubs didn’t stretch past regulation time, and the first time in five regular season meetings that the final score didn’t result in a one-goal game.

The third and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division still belongs to the Kings, who sit there with 70 points – but the edge of the cliff sits one loss away.

“We just have to keep winning,” Matt Greene said in regards to the Kings’ playoff push. “I think we got ourselves in a position where we’re back in the hunt and we can’t let our foot off the gas. The last two games haven’t been to the level where we were at. We have to get back to that level in a hurry here with two more on the road.”

The Kings will have the opportunity to turn things around Sunday in Winnipeg and Tuesday in Edmonton before returning to Los Angeles on Thursday.

Six different players recorded a point for the Kings, Dwight King led all Kings players in shots taken (5), Dustin Brown in hits delivered (5), Brayden McNabb in shots blocked (3), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (28:31). Martin Jones made 28 saves in the loss.

With the loss, the Kings’ record falls to 29-20-12; their mark away from STAPLES Center drops to 9-13-6. The Kings will continue their three-game road trip Sunday when they travel to Manitoba to take on the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre; the puck is slated to drop at 1:00PM PT.

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