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HELENE ELLIOTT

Excuses are the last thing the Kings need right now

They can permit opponents to dictate their fate, as Calgary did in a 5-2 victory at Staples Center, or they can learn to ignore distractions and disadvantages and consistently play hard and tough.

November 22, 2009|Helene Elliott
  • Jarome Iginla of the Flames shoots the puck past Drew Doughty, looking for one of his three goals against the Kings on Saturday.
Jarome Iginla of the Flames shoots the puck past Drew Doughty, looking for… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )

It was an early start. They've played more games than most teams and traveled twice to the East Coast. Ryan Smyth and Rob Scuderi are injured. Their dog ate their homework.

The Kings have a choice. They can wallow in excuses and permit opponents to dictate their fate, as the Calgary Flames did in scoring three times in the third period of a 5-2 victory Saturday at Staples Center. Or they can take the last, toughest step toward maturity by learning to ignore distractions and disadvantages and consistently play hard and tough and with emotion.

"These last two games are two great teams," goaltender Jonathan Quick said of the Kings' losses to the Flames on Saturday and the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, "but if that's where we want to be, we have to prepare ourselves mentally and physically and come up with better showings than we have these past two games. We're better than that. We know that."

Then it's time for them to show it for more than a period at a time.

Saturday's matinee began turning from a competitive matchup to a rout when Daymond Langkow scored a short-handed goal at 7:22 of the third off a nifty feed from Curtis Glencross. Shortly after the Kings flailed through a futile power play, Jarome Iginla completed his ninth career hat trick by rifling home a rebound from the right circle, at 15:53.

David Moss' power-play goal at 19:14 sealed the Kings' third straight home loss, but it was inevitable long before then.

"We didn't have a lot of energy. It's irrelevant why we didn't have it," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "We need to bring it. Especially at critical games."

Every game is critical for a team still forging its identity and seeking leadership and goals while Smyth recovers from his mysterious upper-body injury.

No one has stepped up yet. That has to change.

The Kings took only three shots on their three failed power plays and gave up their fourth short-handed goal-against this season. They took only five shots at Miikka Kiprusoff in the final period.

"We're just not making plays. We've got set plays that we're supposed to execute and we're just not doing it. It's frustrating," Anze Kopitar said. "It's 2-2 in the third period and the game is right there."

And then, it wasn't.

They did display some resilience early. Iginla scored his first goal on the Flames' first shot, using defenseman Sean O'Donnell as a screen and blasting a wobbling 50-footer past Quick 13 seconds into the game.

But the Kings rallied to take the lead in the second period on Drew Doughty's long slap shot through a screen at 3:22 and Alexander Frolov's first goal in 11 games, scored 38 seconds later, after Kiprusoff made a chest save on a shot by Doughty but couldn't corral the rebound.

"We had a couple of good shifts in the second and had a 2-1 lead, and then they come back and tie it up and we're going 2-2 into the third," Brown said, exhaling a deep sigh in mid-sentence.

"We had 25 shots maybe but not too many really good scoring chances. There's players not playing hard enough, for one, and not playing together."

The Flames pulled even at 6:51 of the second during a five-on-three advantage. With Brown and Michal Handzus sitting in the box, Iginla took a terrific pass from Jay Bouwmeester, took a second to settle it on his stick and rifled it past Quick.

Then, in the third, the deluge.

"Overall we need to be better," Kings Coach Terry Murray said. "There needs to be more of the type of game that I think we were showing in the first part of the year: lots of team energy, jump, good plays, top guys were doing the right stuff out there. And we're getting away from making right decisions with pucks out there, and that's a concern for me."

The Flames were stomped by the Chicago Blackhawks, 7-1, on Thursday and they've had injuries too. Rene Bourque, their top scorer before Iginla recorded his hat trick, suffered an undisclosed injury Thursday and was put on injured reserve.

They ignored those huge negatives and emerged with a positive result Saturday. There's another lesson for the Kings to absorb or ignore. It's their choice. Their season.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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