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The Key Three: March 9

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Three key aspects of the Kings’ 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings...

The Detroit Red Wings, by all rational analysis, were a one-line team. Decimated by injuries, Detroit had a line of Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler. If the Kings could keep that line under control -- not necessarily even shut down, just under control -- they figured to have a great chance. Instead, that line contributed to three of the Red Wings’ four goals. The Kings’ best players? Yes, the first line of Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown did an acceptable job, but Mike Richards made a series of game-changing mistakes, and Drew Doughty arguably got burned on two Detroit goals. The Kings needed better.

Over the past couple years, the Kings’ defense-first system has clearly served them well in one area. When they have a lead late in the third period, they generally hold it. So when Dwight King scored with 5:54 remaining in regulation, after Detroit had already battled back to tie the game 1-1 and 2-2, it stood to reason that the shorthanded Red Wings wouldn’t have enough firepower down the stretch to even tie the game. Not only did the Red Wings tie it, they won it, with two goals in the final 4:02. Give credit to the Red Wings for making the plays, but also point the finger at the Kings for a couple very uncharacteristic defensive-zone breakdowns.

The Red Wings certainly weren’t going to win the game as it was being played in the first period. The Kings skated better, were more aggressive and did an outstanding job of piling up offensive-zone time against the Red Wings, who are accustomed to playing with the puck. So, the Red Wings came out looking like a different team in the second period. They sat back and played a patient game, and the game slowed down. Perhaps, Detroit wagered that they could get a couple chances on a counterattack and make a couple skilled plays. It worked. The Kings generated little over the final two periods and Detroit made enough plays to earn the win.
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