|Michael Pelech scored the lone goal for the Kings rookies.
The Los Angeles Kings opened the Rookie Tournament against the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday at the Toyota Sports Center, and for the close to 500 Kings fans in attendance the first period provided a metaphor of what was to come.
In the first 20 minutes, the Kings rookies committed eight penalties, were out-shot 17-5, and fell behind 2-0 on the way to a 6-1 defeat to the Phoenix Coyotes rookies.
The second game against the Coyotes is Thursday at 2 p.m.
For defenseman Thomas Hickey, falling behind early made it tough for the Kings to get back into the game.
"I think once you get behind the eight ball like that it's really tough to chip away when you're down and that was probably the biggest problem," Hickey said. "So tomorrow our focus is going to have to be on starting the game early and getting more shots because they really out-played us in the first and that set the tone."
The Coyotes scored the first goal of the game on a power-play goal by center Chad Koalarik, one of four power plays Phoenix had in the first period.
"You get four power plays in the first period and that really set the tone," Kings head coach Terry Murray said.
The second Phoenix goal came 17:10 into the first period on a goal by center Colin Long.
In the first period the Kings committed eight penalties for 33 minutes, including a 10-minute misconduct, five minutes for fighting and a two-minute instigator penatly by defenseman Colten Teubert, after Hickey was up-ended.
After a goal by left winger Brett Maclean gave the Coyotes a 3-0 advantage, Los Angeles forward Michael Pelech scored the Kings lone goal of the night 10:50 into the second period. Right winger Geoff Walker and defenseman Patrick Mullen assisted on the goal.
The Coyotes would add another goal in the second period to move ahead 4-1 heading into the second intermission before adding two more in the final period.
All told it was a disappointing loss for the Kings rookies, but for Hickey this is no time to hang one's head.
"It's an opportunity," Hickey said. "I don't think you can afford to be down. Who knows? This could be the last shot for some guys. You never know what's going to happen at main camp, if you're going to get into Exhibition games, so this could be your last audition.
"Get ready for tomorrow and make sure you don't leave anything out there."
Murray added after the game that the players need to maintain a competitive attitude despite a disheartening loss.
"You have to go with the determination and just keep pushing on," Murray said. "There's going to be games when you have a tough time and pucks are not going to bounce or you're going to end up playing in your end maybe more than you want. They've all been through it before, they know how to turn things around."
Murray said that there were definite improvements to be made, citing cutting down on the individual play, having better puck management, and providing better support for other teammates as the main concerns. He also added that players had the tendency to take themselves out of the play looking to give the big hit.
Kings goaltender Martin Jones had 33 saves in comparison to Phoenixs Joel Gistedts 26, yet surrendered all six Coyote goals. Murray said that he would like to have seen the Kings play better defense in front of Jones, yet added that it was good experience for the 19-year old who was signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2008.
"He's a young kid that's a junior player and it was a great opportunity for him to play against guys who have played pro hockey for a couple of years," Murray said. "There was a lot of action around his net and a lot of big guys in front of his crease. On the power play they were right in his face and he's learning how to look through and find his way around those kind of situations."
Hickey also had supportive words for his teammate after the game.
"I said to him after the game 'keep your head up' because with the amount of penalties we took he was probably a little bit flustered, especially after the first period," Hickey said. "If you look at those goals, there were some screens, there were some back door plays where he didn't really have much of a chance. But he definitely battled, I think you can tell that. He didn't give up at all."