Florida Panthers 3, Kings 1
Eight keys to the game:
THE FACTS: The Kings eliminated any chance of finishing their longest road trip of the season with a winning record, giving up two goals in a lackluster second period at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., then sealing the loss by giving up an empty-net goal to the Panthers in the game's final minute.
THE STAT: The Kings continue to show their Eastern Conference opponents why they’re the lowest-scoring team in the NHL, managing one goal or fewer for the 21st time in 55 games. They fell to 11-19-9 when scoring two goals or fewer. The good news is, they scored in the closing minutes to avoid getting shut out for the seventh time this season, which would have tied them for second in the league.
TURNING POINT: When these teams last met Dec. 1 at Staples Center, Florida left wing Sean Bergenheim delivered a hit on Kings center Mike Richards that sidelined him for eight games and sent the Kings reeling even further into an offensive abyss. Some thought the Kings might look to exact revenge, but it was Bergenheim who got the last laugh a day after turning 28 years old, scoring the first goal of the game early in the second period.
HOT: Kings center Anze Kopitar continues to scrape together points while most of his teammates put up zeros in the box score. He made an alert pass to defenseman Drew Doughty with about 2 ½ minutes remaining in the game and Doughty scored his fifth goal of the season to cut the deficit to 2-1. Kopitar has 12 points in the last 13 games.
NOT: The Kings tied a season-low for shots on goal in a period with just three in the second, which just so happened to be the same stretch the Panthers scored two goals to take an insurmountable 2-0 lead. That was against a Florida goalie that had allowed nine goals in his previous two starts. Richards and Dustin Penner must have taken an early flight to L.A.’s next game against the New York Islanders because they combined for no shots and a minus-5 rating.
GOOD MOVE: Kings coach Darryl Sutter decided to pull starting goalie Jonathan Quick after two periods and insert back-up Jonathan Bernier. This could either mean: A) Sutter was raising the white flag. B) He was sending a message to the rest of the team that their play was unacceptable. C) Bernier is on the trading block and this was an attempt to showcase his talents.
BAD MOVE: Sutter continues to go with Trent Hunter over Kevin Westgarth, but at least Westgarth will throw his body around in fourth-line fashion and keep guys like Bergenheim in check. Hunter finished with one hit and a two-minute cross-checking penalty in a team-low 8:41 of ice time.
NOTABLE: The Panthers ended a seven-game losing streak against the Kings and beat L.A. on their home ice for the first time in 10 years. With the victory, the Panthers moved back into the Southeast Division lead.
UP NEXT: Saturday at New York Islanders, 10 a.m. ET.