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Kings can't solve Luongo in home loss

October 31, 2008|Chris Foster | Foster is a Times staff writer.

From where the Kings sit, better days may be on the horizon. A young team with promising talent that could end up being worth the price of admission.

But before they can put paying customers in Staples Center, which was half-full Thursday, the Kings will need to fill one spot in the lineup: their net.

Vancouver's 4-0 victory over the Kings was an example of what a good goaltender can mean to a middle-of-the-road team. The Canucks' Roberto Luongo was less than brilliant, but certainly smothering, making 28 saves, including a penalty shot by Alexander Frolov.

"I was [coach] in Florida and we traded for him," Kings Coach Terry Murray said of Luongo. "You could see then what he was going to be and he has become that. . . . You have to get 20 shots on net to get one in."

The L.A. Story on the other end was a little different tale.

Goaltender Jason LaBarbera has the opportunity to fill the franchise's sore spot. The Kings had seven goaltenders play at least one game last season, and their best-ever list is a short one.

Rogie Vachon . . . Kelly Hrudey . . . and . . . and . . .

LaBarbera, though, has yet to prove he is anything more than a stop-gap while Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier hone their games at minor league Manchester, N.H.

"I know how hard it is to get here and how long it took me to get here," LaBarbera said. "I know [Quick and Bernier] are talented. . . . That's the nature of the beast. There are always guys coming to try to take your job."

LaBarbera gave up four goals on the first 17 shots Thursday. It fit a trend.

In his last two regulation losses, LaBarbera gave up three goals on 15 shots to Nashville and four goals on 14 shots to Colorado. He balanced those performances with a shutout against St. Louis and a solid effort in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

"I think it is never-ending work, no matter who you are," Murray said. "Whether you're Martin Brodeur or a young guy coming in, you are constantly refining and improving your game. You give attention to something, then something else slips a little bit."

The Kings had given up only three power-play goals through the first eight games but gave up two to the Canucks. The Kings spent the first five minutes killing penalties. LaBarbera made a handful of quality saves, but was unable to stop everything.

Henrik Sedin slid a pass to his brother Daniel at the crease. LaBarbera stopped the re-direction, but Daniel Sedin was able to poke the puck under the goaltender for a power-play goal and a 1-0 lead 5:09 into the game.

LaBarbera also provided a couple of silver-platter rebounds and appeared mesmerized when Mason Raymond waltzed down the left side, then flicked a shot over LaBarbera's right shoulder for a 2-0 Vancouver lead late in the first period.

"I lost him through all the bodies," LaBarbera said.

The Canucks stretched that lead with goals by Kyle Wellwood in the second period and Taylor Pratt in the third period.

The Kings couldn't match the output.

Murray moved Patrick O'Sullivan to the first line, where he rejoined Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. But none of the Kings could solve Luongo, who earned the 40th shutout of his career.


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