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Mistakes are costly to Kings

October 21, 2008|Helene Elliott | Helene Elliott is a Times staff writer.

Maybe they tempted fate once too often, or maybe they had to be reminded that one breakdown can upset their still-delicate balance.

After rallying for victories over the Ducks and the Carolina Hurricanes last week, the Kings tried to repeat that pattern against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. Two second-period blunders had cost them a lead and though they tried with all the energy in their young legs to come back and pull out another victory, their luck ran out.

Ryan Smyth's welcome-to-the-NHL move on 18-year-old Kings rookie Drew Doughty produced Colorado's fourth goal and was the difference in the Avalanche's 4-3 triumph, played out in front an announced crowd of 13,891 that tried its best to fill Staples Center with hopeful noise but occasionally resorted to boos of frustration.

Doughty didn't get discouraged by his mistake and managed to score the Kings' third goal -- and his first NHL goal -- at 2:25 of the third period. But too many things had gone awry for the Kings (2-3) to recover, putting this in the category of a lesson learned the hard way.

"We can't take a period off. I thought in the first period we were pretty good and in the second we didn't stick to our game plan," said Doughty, who said the puck bounced off his foot and to Smyth on that goal but that he still should have taken his man out of the play.

"If we play like we did in the third period, we'll be fine. I think this game should have been ours, definitely."

And maybe not.

Starting goaltender Jason LaBarbera allowed four goals on 14 shots over the first 40 minutes and was replaced by Erik Ersberg at the start of the third period, Ersberg's season debut.

The Swedish goalie faced only two shots in the final period, but at the other end, Colorado's Peter Budaj stopped all seven shots in the third period and 26 overall.

The Kings did preserve their perfect penalty-killing record, killing off four disadvantages to improve to 23 for 23. Last season they ranked 29th in the league with a 78% success rate.

"Maybe that's starting to be something everyone's talking about and it's definitely improved from last year," said winger Patrick O'Sullivan, who scored the Kings' second goal and was active all night.

"We can be happy about that. And the third period, we're happy about that and the way we competed. We'll be OK if we eliminate those mistakes we made. We're going in the right direction."

The game started off well for the Kings, who were seeking their third straight victory as they closed this four-game homestand.

They scored first, on the power play, at 6:19. Alexander Frolov found a comfortable spot along the left-wing boards to send a pass to rookie Oscar Moller, who was stationed at the goal line and next to the left post.

Moller, playing his fifth NHL game, took the pass like a veteran and poked the puck into the goalie's feet. It sneaked in, to the crowd's delight.

The lead lasted only until 11:28, when Smyth -- unchecked in the slot -- took a pass from Paul Stastny and scored on Colorado's second shot.

After failing to capitalize on a four-on-three power play and a five-on-three advantage in the first period the Kings surged ahead, 2-1, early in the second period.

But they found themselves trailing after two bad passes in their defensive zone -- made not by youngsters but by veterans -- were transformed into Colorado goals on two consecutive shots.

They had taken the lead when O'Sullivan corralled the rebound of a shot by Stoll and had time to turn and sweep it past Budaj on his backhand, at 3:02. But Milan Hejduk brought Colorado even again after he intercepted a pass by Michal Handzus and took a wrist shot from about 20 feet out.

The Avalanche went ahead at 5:16, on its sixth shot of the game. Another careless pass, this time by Tom Preissing, ended up on the stick of David Jones, who blasted it past LaBarbera from about 45 feet out for his first goal of the season.

Colorado added a fourth goal, at 16:32, after Smyth made his slick move past Doughty and lifted a backhander over LaBarbera's shoulder.

To the end, the Kings believed they'd rally again, but it's unrealistic to expect that every game.

"We're capable of doing it but it's a lot better going into the third with a lead and playing with a lead," Dustin Brown said.

After being schooled on Monday, it's one lesson they shouldn't forget.


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