LA Kings: Still looking for consistency in loss to Golden Knights

LA Kings (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

The LA Kings started fast against the Golden Knights on Monday, but they could do little with the final 40 minutes, and it cost them.

The five veterans leftover from the LA Kings Stanley Cup runs all expected to make the playoffs in this 56-game slate. After Monday night’s 4-1 loss against Vegas, it feels like a pipe dream at this point, unless something crazy happens. Obviously, a postseason berth would have been an added bonus in what is essentially an evaluation year for the younger players.

Still, the same issues that have plagued this team continued on Monday night.

Los Angeles opened the scoring as Matt Roy whipped a shot from the high slot past Robin Lehner just one minute into the opening frame. The Kings generally dominated the pace of play through the first 14 minutes before Vegas responded with a pushback of their own. But Todd McLellan’s group owned a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

The Kings were doomed from the get-go in the second period, with Carl Grundstrom taking a hooking penalty that ultimately changed the dynamic of the game. Vegas scored on the power play as Reilly Smith cleaned up a bouncing puck in front of the crease.

The goal broke a streak of 20 straight penalty kills for the LA Kings.

“They came down and obviously found a way to score one, and that was the difference,” McLellan said on Grundstrom’s penalty, shifting the momentum. “But I don’t know if the Grundstrom penalty itself changed the whole game, but it was a factor because they scored on their first one [power play], we didn’t.”

The Kings had very few chances in the second period, and Vegas added two more backbreaking goals just 1:26 apart at the end of the period. This game is probably one that Grundstrom will want to burn the tape and forget about. He committed a delay of game penalty with 1:41 left in the middle frame.

“I thought that first period was good,” Anze Kopitar said during the postgame Zoom call. “You know even parts of the seconds were not terrible. Not great but not terrible, which is not good enough, obviously.”

Down 3-1 and heading into the final frame, the Kings registered just five shots on net, three from defensemen. Austin Strand drew in for this game in place of the struggling Kurtis MacDermid. He had a couple of nice shot attempts right in front of the Vegas net but failed to light the lamp.

And to add insult to injury, Alec Martinez put the nail in the coffin with a goal at the 12:35 mark in the final frame, sealing a 4-1 loss for the LA Kings.

Todd McLellan shuffled the forward lines prior to the game, moving Trevor Moore up to the second line next to Gabe Vilardi, who was promoted out of the doghouse and back up to the 2C. Moore has played well this season, and the promotion was well deserved. I’m just not sure that this was the game to experiment with that type of lineup change.

Certainly, Moore wasn’t the reason the Kings lost this game. In fact, he had an excellent shot block, giving up his body to prevent the puck from getting through. And that’s exactly the type of play that earned his promotion.

“We need to find some consistency,” McLellan explained of his reasoning for shaking up the forward groups. “We go from having a good offensive and defensive night for one group of three, and one line may give you a lot of offense but [they are a] disaster defensively.”

We noted one of the three keys in this series was LA’s power play needed to be productive. Coming into this series, they were 0-for-the-last-9 stretching back to the last win against these Golden Knights. On Monday, the Kings went 0-for-3 and generated very few opportunities on the man advantage.

Shots were fairly even, slightly in favor of the LA Kings at 25-24. Overall, the team stats were very similar in this one, but Vegas obviously used a big second period to sink the Kings.

And now, a quick look at the standings.

While the Blues are leaving the door open for someone in the bottom four to grab the final playoff spot, it would appear that the Coyotes or even the Sharks at this point have more of a chance than the Kings.

Arizona is five points ahead of Los Angeles in the standings and just one point out of the fourth playoff spot. The Sharks have won three of their last five games, including a sweep of the Kings last week, and are tied in the standings with their rivals to the south.

LA Kings Schedule

The Kings and Golden Knights will wrap up their two-game set on Wednesday, with puck drop set for 7 pm PT. It feels like a must-win game if you’re the Kings, given where we’re at in the season and the aforementioned standings.