LOS ANGELES – Three unanswered goals gave the Kings life, the third period saw it dissipate.
Scoring chances were coming at an alarming rate for the Kings in the opening minutes of tonight’s scrap with the Coyotes, as they began the evening’s opening minutes outshooting Phoenix 7-1, only to be held without an early goal due to Mike Smith’s phenomenal opening act.
After the Kings’ early pressure, which saw them come frustratingly close to finding the scoreboard first, Phoenix was the first club to find the net tonight.
Rob Klinkhammer put the Coyotes on the board 6:33 into the game, banging home a rebound past Jonathan Quick to give Phoenix a 1-0 lead.
The Coyotes would double-up almost immediately after.
Just 1:03 after Klinkhammer’s opening tally, Mikkel Boedker gave the Coyotes an early 2-0 lead with a power play goal, sending home a backhand shot past Jonathan Quick on a poorly played Kings penalty kill.
Tanner Pearson would chip away at Phoenix’s lead, receiving a pass from Jarret Stoll, and beating Mike Smith high and to the right corner for his 2nd goal of the season to cut the Coyotes’ lead to 2-1 with 2:58 to play in the first period.
The momentum from Pearson’s goal would be carried into the second period, where the Kings outshot the Coyotes 15-3, adding two more goals in the middle frame to recapture the lead.
Alec Martinez scored the game-tying goal by turning nothing into something. After Jeff Carter lost control of the puck behind Phoenix’s net, Martinez pounced on the loose puck, and in one motion, fired a quick snap shot through traffic and past Mike Smith, bouncing out of the net just as fast as it went in.
It was Martinez’s eighth goal of the season, and his fourth in the last eight games.
The Kings would grab their first lead of the night on the power play, in the final minutes of the second period. Marian Gaborik wristed home his 2nd goal in a Kings uniform, receiving a pass from Anze Kopitar atop the slot, and beating Mike Smith to give the Kings a 3-2 lead with 1:41 to play in the second period.
Coming into tonight, the Kings were 21-0-0 when entering the third period with a lead.
That perfection, though, was tested by Phoenix tonight.
The Coyotes, playing their best hockey of the night in the third period, responded to tie the game after the Kings buried three unanswered goals. Keith Yandle fired a slap shot from the blue-line that handcuffed Quick, snuck between his arms and into the net.
Quick looked to make what would be a miraculous, game-changing save late in the game on Jeff Halpern, but after play was stopped, video review confirmed that Halpern’s shot, which looked to be just another glamorous save from Quick in real time, actually crossed the goal line.
Halpern, who played for the Kings in the late stages of the 2010-2011 season, gave Phoenix a 4-3 lead with 3:05 remaining in regulation.
This was the first time the Kings lost a game this season when leading after three periods.
The Kings’ record sits at a mark of 38-25-6, which is good for 82 points, and continues to situate them at sixth-place in the Western Conference. The Coyotes only trail the Kings by five points for the Pacific Division’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot.
The Kings will return home Thursday evening when Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals pay a visit to STAPLES Center. The puck is slated to drop at 7:30PM PT.