Weary kings expelled from Avalanche – Press Enterprise

LOS ANGELES — Playing with a makeshift defensive corps against the NHL’s best-record team, the Kings avoided complete embarrassment but failed to take points or even a goal from the Colorado Avalanche, who clinched a 3-0 win Tuesday night Crypto.com Arena.

Jonathan Quick made 24 saves in a loss. The Kings have been ruled out by Colorado for the sixth time this season and the third time in two seasons.

Winger Valeri Nichushkin scored a goal and set up another forward JT Compher. Right winger Mikko Rantanen set up Nichushkin’s goal and added one of his own. Darcy Kuemper recorded his second straight shutout and fifth of the season by deflecting 23 shots on Tuesday after denying 46 against Calgary on Sunday.

The Kings are not down to their last defender, but rather past him as Tobias Bjornfot missed Tuesday’s game after picking up an injury in overtime on Sunday. He joined five other Kings defensemen in the press box, meaning the Kings decked more blue-liners from their minor league partner Ontario Reign for opening night (4) than their own (0).

“We believe in the group that’s here,” said coach Todd McLellan. “When they keep dropping out it gets harder, you get down the batting order and the guys end up playing a lot more minutes against opponents they wouldn’t normally play and that catches up with you after a while.”

Colorado also featured new faces, including one at the back end. In less than 24 hours, they brought in Josh Manson from the Ducks, who made his Avalanche debut on Tuesday, and forward Nico Sturm from the Minnesota Wild, who was still in transit.

Regardless of roster composition or lineups, the Avs have owned the Kings lately. They have won both matches this year with a 7-1 aggregate score and won seven out of eight matches last year, including an 11-1 aggregate win in the last two games of the season.

“Last year we took 55 or 56 shots against this team. It was ugly. Tonight we checked again, we did what we could,” said McLellan, whose undermanned Kings have given up just two even goals in two games against two elite teams, Florida and Colorado. “I still think the group is further up now than last year against this team.”

The Kings went 0-4 on the power play. They were missing half their roster – 10 players, including notables like Drew Doughty and Viktor Arvidsson. But their futility is a longer-standing reality that has only worsened in recent weeks. Since February 26, they have scored just two goals with the extra man on 26 occasions, which is both the lowest total and lowest percentage in the entire league over that span.

To make matters worse, they scored the third-worst penalty at the same stretch and now need to isolate an inexperienced defense while also juggling forward lines as injuries mount.

“As short as we are on staff, this is where we have to take advantage of some of these situations and get at least one,” McLellan said.

“It puts more pressure on the power play and the penalty shootout to do it and we haven’t been good in those situations all year so it’s difficult at the moment,” McLellan added.

The Kings nearly averted a shutout when they appeared to score at 12:50 after a beautiful shot was blocked by defenseman Christian Wolanin. But the game was reviewed and the goal was disallowed for entering an offside zone.

Colorado put the game into the third period at 5:03. Rantanen stole the puck in the neutral zone, passed to winger Andre Burakovsky and then ended a give-and-go game with a one-timer that became his 29th goal of the season.

The waning moments of the second period were unkind to the kings. First, center Anze Kopitar’s undermanned partial breakout was thwarted by defender Cale Makar’s fast skating, which helped Kopitar send the puck well over the net.

Colorado went the other way with a power play that ended when Makar’s long shot was deflected past Quick by Compher’s traffic. An unusually frustrated Kopitar was seen throwing a water bottle off the bench and into the tunnel after the gate. Kopitar, who gives the Kings pace in points, and linemate Adrian Kempe, who leads the team in goals, have not scored and provided two assists in their last 10 games.

With about six minutes remaining in the second half, Quick was spinning a bit of old “Quickie” as he struggled and twisted his body into more positions than a yoga instructor during a Tormaul scramble. He made two stops at Rantanen, and defenseman Jordan Spence, who put the Kings on hold in his fourth career game, blocked another shot attempt during the sequence.

Four minutes into the game, Colorado nearly opened the scoring when defenseman Ryan Murray hit the post with a shot. At the 6:36 mark, they came on the board with a power play goal.

Center Nathan MacKinnon moved the puck from high to low and found Rantanen behind the net. He surveyed the ice and set up Nichushkin’s tap-in for his career-high 15th goal of the season.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *