Penguins royally flushed by Kings in third period
LOS ANGELES -- Their expectations are so high that a loss like this one will really stick.
That is the reality of life for the Penguins, who were stunned by a four-goal flurry from the Los Angeles Kings in just over 11 third-period minutes Thursday night, leading to a 5-2 defeat at Staples Center.
"We are pretty bothered," Penguins winger Craig Adams said of his club's first road loss in eight games and their only failure to protect a third-period lead in nine contests. "This team wants to win every night, expects to win every night."
Goals by Kings centers Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll and Michal Handzus were scored in a span of roughly six minutes, and winger Dustin Brown finished the frenzy late.
Kopitar, white-hot, has scored nine goals in 10 games and is second in the NHL with 12 tallies. He leads the league with 26 points. Stoll added his fourth and Handzus his sixth.
Penguins center Jordan Staal scored on his club's first shot 1:10 into the game, snapping a nine-game drought. His fourth goal could only tie the score, as Kopitar had tallied just 27 seconds in.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury played his worst game for the Penguins, stopping 27 of 32 shots after entering the contest with a .916 save percentage and 2.14 goals against average.
"It'As just frustrating," he said. "I let up too many goals."
He added that "teams are ready for us."
That figures to be the case against San Jose Saturday night, where the Penguins will face a perennially Cup-contending Sharks squad on the third game of their four-contest road trip.
"We have to regroup," Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said. "We're all pretty confident we will."
Confidence might not enough for a club that is battling significant injuries. As expected the Penguins played without defenseman Sergei Gonchar (broken left wrist) and center Evgeni Malkin (strained right shoulder), and right wing Tyler Kennedy was a surprise late scratch.
Kennedy had recorded two assists and looked sharp in his return from a three-game absence Tuesday night in a win at Anaheim. As undisclosed injury, believed to have been of the lower-body variety, was offered by team officials as the reason for his absence last night.
The Penguins (12-4-0, 24 points) carried a 2-1 lead into the final period after winger Chris Kunitz's third goal midway through the second, but they failed to score on a late power play before the intermission and on another midway through the final period.
The Penguins have not produced an advantage goal in four games and are 3-for-32 in seven contests since Gonchar, their power-play quarterback, was lost for at least a month with a broken left wrist on Oct. 20.
"I thought we did some pretty good things on the power play," center Sidney Crosby said after failing to record a point in a third straight games. "That's an area we've tried to focus on and make adjustments, but (last night) was a matter of ... not burying our chances."
The Kings showed significant stretches of dominance, winning pucks battles along the boards and moving north-south against the typically stout Penguins, who head coach Dan Bylsma suggested spent too much time in the defensive zone.
The Kings (10-4-2, 22 points) are off to their best start since 1992, and this victory was a signature win over the Stanley Cup champions.
"Not only that we beat them, but the way we beat them -- coming back," Brown, their captain, said after adding his fifth goal. "It was a really good third ... our belief system in this room; we know we still wanted it."