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More defensive miscues cost Kings in Game 5

by Corey Masisak

ANAHEIM -- The answer was simple and succinct.

"I made a bad play."

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez didn't shy away from the mistake he made in Game 5 of this Western Conference Second Round series that led to a second goal by Anaheim Ducks forward Devante Smith-Pelly in 83 seconds, and Martinez conveyed his point in a concise manner.

The Ducks had just gone ahead in a game they would win 4-3. Honda Center was buzzing from Smith-Pelly's first goal, which was originally credited to Mathieu Perreault.

Martinez had the puck and was not being pressured. He tried to move it to Marian Gaborik along the left wall, but Ryan Getzlaf intercepted and released Smith-Pelly in alone on net with a perfect saucer pass.

It was a great play by Getzlaf to anticipate Martinez's move; it was a better pass from the Ducks captain. It was also a costly mistake in a game when a few such issues ended up damaging the Kings, who again controlled the puck for long stretches but failed to convert that into a victory. The Ducks lead the best-of-7 series 3-2, with Game 6 on Wednesday at Staples Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN).

"Similar to last game, the second and third goal are close together, the second one was a power-play goal, and then a turnover to Ryan Getzlaf," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "A player can't make that play, that's for sure."

Gaborik was facing Martinez but was drifting away, like a wide receiver not coming back to the football. His defense partner, Matt Greene, took himself out of position for a potential return pass by letting his momentum carry him toward the red line (and it made him unable to get back to harass Smith-Pelly).

"I can't really comment on it because I haven't watched the play on video yet. It's one of those things though where probably if we have better support and the forwards are back a little further, it is a simpler play for him and that turnover doesn't happen," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "It is never just one guy making a mistake. There can be three, four other guys not in position when he makes that mistake and that's on everyone else.

"It's never just one guy."

Anaheim's first goal was also the direct result of a mistake, but this one was more on the other guys, like Brown mentioned. Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin went into the corner with the puck and fell down with no one around, a fluke play and a bad break.

What happened next was the problem for the Kings. Ducks center Daniel Winnik picked up the puck and slipped it to Nick Bonino, who had a screen set up in front and let go of his shot just as goaltender Jonathan Quick was trying to peer around it.

Los Angeles forwards Dwight King and Mike Richards turned and gravitated toward Winnik while defenseman Drew Doughty was dealing with Kyle Palmieri in front. That left Bonino with all kinds of space.

"It's the same thing with the first goal. [Muzzin] just blows an edge. That's how the game goes," Brown said. "As a result, we had the middle of the ice exposed. It's a five-man unit that has to find a way to weather the storm when we have those breakdowns."

Turnovers were a problem for the Kings early in the first round against the San Jose Sharks, and they have become a problem again. The Ducks have a deep, speed-filled roster and are one of the best counterattacking teams in the NHL.

When the Kings have turned over the puck in vulnerable situations, it has cost them. Los Angeles is winning the battle for puck possession, but losing where it matters most because of it.

Each of the past two games have been a similar script. The Kings fall behind early, then they control the puck. But the desperation push is too little too late.

"I think they've been a very opportunistic team," Brown said. "I think in Game 3 we gave up maybe two odd-man rushes, and they scored on both of them. That's a credit to them for being opportunistic. When we're playing our hockey, we don't give up those odd-man rushes.

"Turnovers, you just can't have them. When you give up quick goals like that, it's a momentum killer and a double whammy. They get it, and we lose it. When we're playing our game, we don't have those turnovers."

One issue for the Kings is depth, particularly on defense. The Ducks have received a huge boost by inserting defenseman Sami Vatenen into this series. But the Kings defensemen who don't have "Doughty" stitched on the backs of their jerseys all could be better.

Veterans Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell are not what they once were and have had their struggles. But not having either of them due to injury has forced the Kings to move Greene and Jeff Schultz into the lineup and give Martinez more minutes. Muzzin has been fine playing with Doughty, but Slava Voynov has not been nearly enough of a factor in this series.

Regehr was targeted by the Sharks a lot in the first round on dump-ins because he lacks the skating speed he once possessed, but it's fair to think he might not have tried to force that pass to Gaborik and instead gone with the safer play to Anze Kopitar on Smith-Pelly's goal.

Mitchell and Greene are unrestricted free agents this summer, along with NHL Trade Deadline acquisition Gaborik. The Kings have less than $58 million committed to contracts next season, so given the reports on where the 2014-15 salary cap could end up, they might have more than $10 million of space available.

If Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are ready to be consistent scoring threats, and this postseason has been a strong indicator they might be, the focus this summer will likely be to retool the defense.

Doughty, Muzzin, Voynov and Martinez is a fine base to start with. Younger players Brayden McNabb or Derek Forbert could push for a roster spot. But expect there to be an emphasis on adding talent and depth on defense for the Kings.

If that wasn't an obvious need in the offseason, the injuries to Regehr and Mitchell have driven home the point this series, and the Ducks have begun to take advantage of it.

"When you have injuries on the back end, you're not able to support it as well as you want. That's the way it works with every team," Sutter said. "I think what happens is you play guys up in different situations and you ask them to accept that challenge. I said that before. It's not for the wins and losses. That's part of the challenge when you have that on your back end."

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