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Valiant comeback effort falls short in 7-6 loss to Predators

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings

– In what could be tabbed the Kings’ wildest game of the season to date, a combined 13 goals were scored in their 7-6 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators Saturday afternoon at STAPLES Center.

It was a game of highs and lows, the Predators at one point reeling off five consecutive goals, and the Kings pulling off a miraculous last-minute comeback with three goals in a 1:27 minute span.

“We got a point,” Darryl Sutter said following the tumultuous affair. “That’s the way that hockey works, you get a point if you get [to overtime]. I told out players several times tonight that it would take seven goals to win. I was right.”

The Kings were quick to register the first goal of the afternoon when Matt Greene wristed home a shot from the point and past Pekka Rinne 32 seconds into the game. Greene’s shot was the Kings’ first of the day, and his third goal of the season.

Then, the Predators went off. With three goals scored in less than a five-minute span, Nashville quickly jumped out to a 3-1 lead, and Jonathan Quick was pulled in favor of Martin Jones after allowing three goals on nine shots less than 10 minutes into the game.

“Nobody came in prepared to play a good team in our conference,” Dwight King said of the team’s early approach to the Predators. “[The Predators] are right at the top for a reason. It took us a while to get into the game, and when you are doing that against a good team it’s tough to find ways to win.”

Things didn’t get much better for the Kings early in the second period, as the Predators struck for another pair of goals, scoring on two of their first three shots of the period.

After scoring on their first shot of the game, the Kings allowed five unanswered goals, and found themselves facing a four-goal deficit with 36 minutes left to play.

Alec Martinez got the Kings back on the board moments after Mark Arcobello gave Nashville a 5-1 lead. Martinez, who received a touch-pass from Dustin Brown atop the point, fired a one-time slap shot that ricochet off of a Predators defenseman and past Pekka Rinne.

Martinez’s tally brought the score to 5-2 with 13:31 to play in the second. McBain, with the secondary assist on the goal, earned his 99th career NHL point (27G, 72A).

Dwight King inched the Kings even closer with just under five minutes left to play in the second, redirecting a Jake Muzzin shot past Pekka Rinne to bring the score to 5-3.

Entering the third period, the Kings faced what looked to be a rather favorable two-goal deficit, since they had clawed their way halfway out of a four-goal ditch. Nashville’s Olli Jokinen set the Kings back a step in their comeback efforts, reclaiming a three-goal lead for the Predators with just over 11 minutes left to play in regulation.

With three minutes remaining on the clock, a little late-game magic kicked in for the Kings.

With 2:01 to play, Dwight King slammed home his second goal of the contest during four-on-four play. Anze Kopitar found Jake Muzzin atop the point with a pass, Muzzin sent a shot toward Pekka Rinne that he couldn’t cleanly handle, and King pounded home the loose rebound to bring the score to 6-4.

Dwight King, with two goals on the night, now has three in the past two games; today marked King’s first multi-goal game since October 24, 2013.

With 1:04 left to play, and with Martin Jones pulled from the Kings’ net for an extra attacker, Marian Gaborik tipped home an Alec Martinez slap shot and past Rinne to get the Kings to within one goal.

Gaborik, with his 12th goal of the season, is now tied with Tyler Toffoli for the team lead in that department. Gaborik has 12 points (8G, 4A) in his last nine games.

After getting possession of the puck on the ensuing faceoff, and once again pulling Martin Jones for an extra attacker, the Kings scrapped away for the game-tying goal with 33.3 seconds left on the clock.

Alec Martinez whipped the puck deep into Nashville’s zone, Anze Kopitar got control of it low in the left corner and immediately found a wide open Jeff Carter with a pass low in the left circle. Carter, with a quick release on his shot, beat Rinne high to the glove side to tie the game 6-6.

Carter now has ten points (4G, 6A) in the previous 10 games. Anze Kopitar, with three assists on the afternoon, has 15 points (2G, 13A) in his last nine games.

The Kings entered overtime for the 10th time this season, they came into the night with a 2-7 record when playing past regulation time.

On Nashville’s first shot of the overtime period, a mere 18 seconds into the frame, Roman Josi beat Martin Jones to the blocker side to secure a 7-6 win for the Predators.

“Anytime we are giving up seven goals we are not playing the way we want to play,” Dustin Brown said following the game. “We have to figure it out individually and collectively. It’s pretty much the halfway point of the year. We’ve been saying we need to be more consistent, and we have to stop talking about being consistent and start being consistent.”

Drew Doughty, with an assist today, is now on a three-game point streak. Mike Richards, with his assist, now has points in consecutive games.

“We’re not, obviously, playing to the best of our abilities. Nowhere even close,” said Alec Martinez following the game. “We’ve got to turn things around.”

Thankfully, for the Kings, they will play their next six games on home ice at STAPLES Center, where they’ve posted an impressive 14-4-3 mark this season.

Anze Kopitar (3A) led all Kings players in points scored (3), Dwight King in shots taken (6), Mike Richards in hits delivered (5), Matt Greene and Drew Doughty in shots blocked (3), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (28:43). Jonathan Quick made six saves on nine shots faced; Martin Jones 12 saves on 16 shots faced.

With the loss, the Kings’ record dips to 19-12-9; their mark on home ice at STAPLES Center drops to 14-4-3. The Kings now have four days off until they continue their seven-game home stand Thursday night against the New York Rangers at STAPLES Center. The puck is slated to drop at 7:30PM PT.

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