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The Key Three: March 31

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Three key aspects of the Kings’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild...

Back in the pre-lockout days, last night’s game would have gone down in the books as a tie, and what’s wrong with that? (Other than the fact that the fans love the shootout, which is a fact not to be ignored.) Each team had a lead, then lost it. Perhaps even more pertinent, each team had a tremendous chance on the power play, with the game tied 3-3, and couldn’t score. Minnesota had a four-minute power play late in the third period after Dwight King’s high-sticking penalty, and the Kings killed it off. Then, the Kings had a power play that extended into overtime, in a scoring-rich 4-on-3 situation, but Niklas Backstrom robbed Mike Richards. So, we got a shootout.

Since April 2, 2009, there had been 92 games in which the Kings took a lead into the third period. In 86 of those games, the Kings earned two points. In terms of a success rate, in holding the late, that’s 93.5 percent. The Minnesota Wild, the 13th-place team in the Western Conference, didn’t figure to become the seventh team to deny the Kings a win in that situation, but they did. After the Kings put forth a big second-period effort, the Wild bounced back a bit in the third. They didn’t dominate the game, by any means, but they did a good job of playing hard and going to the net, and they got rewarded when the rebound from Jason Zucker’s shot hit Erik Christensen’s skate and went in.

The Kings weren’t awful in the first period -- they’ve had far, far worse periods this season -- but they certainly didn’t look sharp either. Rob Scuderi said it best after the game, that the Kings looked mentally off. Many of their decisions and reactions were just a half-second slow, but even that can cause problems. The Kings had to feel fortunate to be in a 2-2 tie game at the end of the first period, and they responded well in the second period. The Kings weren’t as sharp in that period as they were in the game against Calgary and Edmonton, but the Kings played a good, solid 20 minutes, took the lead and put themselves in a position to win the game.
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