Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Kings' top line disappears in loss
By Dan Arritt Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- With everything set in place for the Los Angeles Kings to celebrate history on their home ice Wednesday night, the top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams got lost in the hoopla.
The trio, a key element in L.A.'s run to within one victory of their first Stanley Cup title, had a night to forget against the New Jersey Devils in Game 4 at Staples Center, combining for just two shots on goal and contributing 10 of the team's 17 giveaways in the 3-1 loss at Staples Center.
As a result, the Kings will have to wait three more days and travel 2,500 miles for another crack at raising the Cup. Game 5 is set for Saturday night at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Anze Kopitar couldn't capitalize on the same kind of chances that slid into the net for him earlier in the series.
"We couldn't score," Kopitar said. "We had a couple of chances and we didn't bear down. We didn't get a couple of bounces."
The two biggest bounces could be heard above the largest crowd ever to watch a Kings game at Staples Center.
Williams deflected a point shot from defenseman Slava Voynov, and it struck the inside of the left post with 3:11 remaining in the opening period. The puck then caromed behind Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and stayed perpendicular to the goal line before sliding into the corner. The puck was so close to crossing the line, the red light behind the net briefly flashed.
With 45 seconds remaining in the same period, the Kings went on their first power play and again drew iron. This time it was Kopitar who hit the inside of the opposite post with a slap shot from the point.
"We have to bury the chances that we get," Kopitar said.
The near-misses were magnified as the game remained scoreless heading into the final period. The Devils struck first to end their scoreless streak at 139 minutes, 2 seconds, but the Kings answered one minute later on another power play. Kopitar and Brown played key roles on the goal, as Kopitar won a faceoff and the puck ended up on the stick of Drew Doughty, who shot it past Brodeur with Brown providing a screen.
The energy ratcheted up inside the arena but it only lasted about 7 1/2 minutes, as the Devils took back the lead with 4:31 left in regulation, then sealed it with an empty-net goal with 20 seconds on the clock.
It was just the third time in these playoffs that the opposition managed two consecutive goals.
"They seem like they had chances off the rush and they capitalized on those," Kopitar said. "We've got to correct some things and get ready again."
One area of improvement would certainly be better puck handling.
The Kings came in averaging 6.9 giveaways through the first 18 games of the playoffs, but Brown finished with five turnovers of his own, including two in the decisive third period. Williams accounted for three giveaways and Kopitar had two. Neither was credited with a shot on goal.
Stanley Cup Finals
Get all the news and commentary on the Devils-Kings matchup on ESPN.com's matchup page.
After combining for 18 goals and 31 assists in the playoff heading into Game 4, maybe they were due to get outplayed.
"They played with a little more desperation than we did," Kopitar said of the Devils, who still haven't been swept in the playoffs in franchise history. "We have to correct that in Game 5."
If there's a silver lining, the Kings have been down this road before. They missed out on a chance to sweep the first and third rounds, but went on the road and won both Game 5s in overtime.
"We've been in this situation before more than once and come back with a strong performance," Brown said.
It'll be up to the top line to lead the way.
"Ultimately, if we don't finish the job, we don't deserve it," Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said.
Dan Arritt covers hockey for ESPNLosAngeles.com.