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HELENE ELLIOTT

Kings finally score but lose, 3-2, to Penguins in shootout

The slumping Kings end a home scoreless streak at 158 minutes, but still fall short against Penguins.

November 05, 2011|Helene Elliott
  • Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz celebrates his goal in the fourth round of a shootout with the Kings, lifting the Penguins to a 3-2 victory Saturday night at Staples Center.
Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz celebrates his goal in the fourth round… (Harry How / Getty Images )

For a team that hadn't scored at home for parts of four games, two goals was a feast for the Kings Saturday.

But that scoring spree wasn't enough to give them a victory over the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins.

Winger Chris Kunitz tied the score with 2:57 left in the third period and tallied the winner in the shootout to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 victory and extend the Kings' recent slump to one win in their last six games.

They did end a home scoreless streak at 158 minutes and 32 seconds when Anze Kopitar scored off a nifty feed from Justin Williams at 13:34 of the second period. But that wasn't consolation enough for the Kings, who should be far more prolific than they have been. They've scored 11 goals in the last six games, not nearly enough production for a group that was strengthened last summer with the additions of elite forwards Mike Richards and Simon Gagne.

"Two's better than zero but we'd still like to score more than two," defenseman Jack Johnson said. "Two doesn't give us a lot of breathing room but it's somewhere to start.

"It's ? well, somewhere to start. But we need to score more than two goals."

They also need to find a level of consistency and avoid the kind of dramatic swings they experienced last season. They started 12-3 and then lost seven of eight; they then won nine of the next 12 but lost 10 of 12 after that. This season, they were 5-1-1 but have slipped now to 1-3-2 in their last six.

"We've got to keep our eye on that, absolutely," Coach Terry Murray said. "We have a nice month of November here. We know that. We've talked about it in meetings. There's some games in front of us here at home that we have to be ready to play and get that start of the season, get a good start till Christmas, take a look at where we are. That's an opportunity in front of us right now."

The Penguins scored first Saturday, at 18:45 of the opening period. They had two full minutes of five-on-three power-play time in the period and capitalized during a five-on-four advantage, when defenseman Kris Letang made a great fake to draw Anze Kopitar down and out of the play then passed the puck to Steve Sullivan. The gritty winger was deep on the left side when he angled a shot past Jonathan Quick for his first goal of the season.

The Kings ended their home scoring drought when Kopitar backhanded the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury at 13:34 of the second period. The play became possible when Richard Park turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and it was finished off on a nifty pass from Justin Williams to Kopitar.

The Kings had a chance to take the lead when Mike Richards was awarded a penalty shot after being taken down by Letang on a clear breakaway, but Richards missed the net. They finally got that lead at 13:49 after Greene won a puck battle to maintain possession and the puck went from Williams to Kopitar to Gagne, who had an open right side of the net to deposit his fourth goal.

Kunitz tied it at 17:03, but nothing was settled in overtime. In the shootout, Stoll and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin missed in the first round, Kopitar and Letang scored in the second and Dustin Brown and James Neal didn't score in the third round. Gagne shot wide left to lead off the fourth round but Kunitz ended the proceedings, and Quick smashed his stick in frustration.

He wasn't the only King to feel that way.

"Right now we're just trying to figure things out. We're trying to get it going," Greene said of the team's balky offense.

"Obviously two is an improvement over none, but I think we're getting chances. Especially tonight I thought we had some big-time chances, and this team's good enough that guys are going to start scoring goals. It's going to happen sooner or later."

If not, this season could turn out to be more of the same old, same old and not the elusive next step General Manager Dean Lombardi envisioned. He's not spending near the salary-cap limit for another first-round playoff exit. He expects more. It's time he -- and Kings fans -- got it.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

Twitter.com/helenenothelen

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