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Kings push late, but eked out in Edmonton

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

The Kings were hindered by early goals for the second consecutive night in falling to the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday night at Rexall Place.

It certainly isn’t ideal to end your calendar year with a loss to the NHL’s worst club, but the Kings were again too slow out of the gate. The first two periods saw the Kings struggle to generate much of anything, seemingly lacking a strong sense of urgency or desperation.

For the 12th time in 18 games on the road this season, the Kings surrendered the first goal of the game, which tonight, came on the Oilers’ third shot of the evening just under five minutes into the game.

After Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks won a battle for the puck along the right sideboards in the Kings’ zone, he initiated the play that would produce the Oilers’ first goal of the game. Edmonton moved the puck to the top of the zone, back down low, and to the middle of the slot where Hendricks was waiting wide open to bury a one-timer past Jonathan Quick.

The Kings, who had two power play opportunities following Hendricks’ goal, failed to record a single shot on either of their man-advantage situations.

Midway through the second period, Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins connected to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead, immediately after they squandered a golden 3-on-1 sequence. Taylor Hall chipped Nugent-Hopkins a nifty backhand pass, and he snapped a shot past Jonathan Quick’s blocker side.

Heading into the third period, the Kings found themselves mired in 40 minutes of frustrating, unproductive play, where they had constant trouble generating second chances and sustained pressure in Edmonton’s zone.

Then, in the third, the Kings outshot the Oilers 15-1.

With just under 10 minutes to play in regulation, the Kings won an offensive zone faceoff back to Drew Doughty. Doughty, with time to look for a passing or shooting lane, opted to fire at Edmonton’s net. Doughty’s blast from the point caromed off a net camera, which was situated on the back iron off the cross-bar.

Play continued without any players suspecting a goal, but officials in Toronto halted the game to share the news.

Doughty’s shot caromed off the net’s camera so quickly, and in such an unsuspecting angle, that no one knew of the Kings’ first goal when it actually happened.

“Oh, it was huge,” Tyler Toffoli said of Doughty’s goal. “It gave us a little momentum and we obviously had a little momentum and that put us over the edge. It was a good boost for our team. Obviously it wasn’t enough.”

With three minutes left in regulation, the Kings were granted their third power play of the night. Up to this point, the Kings were not only unsuccessful on their first two man-advantage situations of the night, but they hadn’t even registered a single shot.

This one had some work ethic to it.

As the Kings worked low in Edmonton’s zone, defenseman Jake Muzzin snuck down low to provide an outlet. Marian Gaborik failed on his first attempt to hit Muzzin, but after recovering the puck, found Muzzin again a moment later to connect for the equalizer.

Muzzin’s goal, his fifth of the season, tied the game 2-2 with only 2:25 left to play in regulation.

“Just trying to get pucks to the net, it’s late in the game,” Muzzin said of his game-tying goal. “I popped out and Gabby with a little pass and I think it went short side. Just trying to get pucks to the net and bodies to the net late in the game.”

Gaborik, with the assist on Muzzin’s goal, extends his point-streak to seven games; he has 11 points (7G, 4A) during that span. Anze Kopitar, who had the secondary assist on the game-tying goal, now has 13 points (2G, 11A) in his last seven games.

The teams entered overtime, and eventually a shootout.

Coming into the night, Edmonton was 0-7 in games extended past regulation time, the Kings 2-7. The Kings had a couple of solid chances in the opening minutes of the overtime period, the Oilers in the final minutes, but the game extended to a shootout.

Jonathan Quick made a miraculous save on Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle in the second round of the shootout, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Kings to two points Tuesday night.

The shootout went four rounds, and all four Kings shooters (Carter, Kopitar, Toffoli, Williams) failed to score on Ben Scrivens. Edmonton’s David Perron beat Jonathan Quick with a backhand to the blocker side in the fourth round to secure the 3-2 win for the Oilers, snapping Edmonton’s nine-game losing streak.

“It’s disappointing,” defenseman Jake Muzzin said of the loss. “We’ve got to come out hungrier from the get-go and desperate from the get-go. I think if we do that, we give ourselves a good chance at a hockey game. We’ve got to get angry and get mad and bear down and get some points here.”

Five different Kings players recorded at least one point, Jake Muzzin led all players in shots taken (6), Alec Martinez in shots blocked (4), Dustin Brown in hits delivered (6), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (31:59). Jonathan Quick made 19 saves in the loss.

With the loss, the Kings record falls to 18-12-8; their mark away from STAPLES Center dips to 4-8-6. The Kings will head British Columbia to complete their three-game road trip, where they’ve posted a 0-1-1 record thus far. The Kings will take on the Vancouver Canucks Friday night at Rogers Centre. The puck is slated to drop at 7:00PM PT.

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