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TORONTO 3, KINGS 2

Kings are ones left frustrated

They can't hold on to 2-0 lead and see their win streak stopped at eight games.

March 14, 2014|HELENE ELLIOTT

Anze Kopitar said the Kings lost track of the puck after Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer stopped him on probably his third point-blank chance Thursday, and that's why he and most of his teammates lingered in the offensive zone.

"He made a toe save on me and I fired it over the net and nobody knew where the puck was," Kopitar said. "And then they came down on a two-on-one and scored, so that was the one that gave up the lead."

The Maple Leafs seemed to know where the puck was. They found it quickly enough and took off on a two-on-one break while short-handed, a play capped by Mason Raymond's successful shot from the right circle at 5 minutes 6 seconds of the third period. That stood as the decisive goal in Toronto's 3-2 victory at Staples Center.

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter had a different view of Kopitar's role on the play that effectively ended his team's eight-game winning streak. "I think everybody knew where the puck went," Sutter said, tartly. "I think he thought it was in the net maybe.

"The power play wasn't good enough. Cost us the game."

The Maple Leafs, rebounding from a stinging loss at San Jose on Tuesday, taught the Kings a lesson on how to handle frustration and adversity.

Forced to summon Reimer after starter Jonathan Bernier sustained a lower-body injury during the first period, Toronto overcame a 2-1 Kings lead behind Reimer's 31-save performance. Reimer made a trio of highlight-reel saves on Kopitar, who had good chemistry with new linemate Marian Gaborik.

"It shouldn't happen. Not 0 for 3," Kopitar said. "I should at least get one. Possibly two. I can allow myself to get robbed on one but not all three."

At least that line created a bunch of scoring chances against Bernier, who watched the rest of the game from the bench, and against Reimer.

Gaborik scored his first goal as a King, converting the rebound of a shot by Drew Doughty at 1:57 of the first period, and Kopitar made it 2-0 on a one-timer from the right circle during a power play at 16:05 of the first period.

But Toronto got one back before the period ended, on a power-play backhander by Dion Phaneuf, and the Maple Leafs pulled even at 3:46 of the second period on a shot that beat Jonathan Quick to the glove side.

Sutter took the dramatic step of sitting team captain Dustin Brown for much of the third period. Brown, who has struggled to score all season, played only two minutes and 45 seconds in the third period over four shifts.

Asked if Brown had been hurt, Sutter said no.

"No, he got benched. The line was tired so we didn't play them much," Sutter said of the trio of Dwight King, Jarret Stoll and Brown.

Gaborik said the Kings ran into a good goalie but also needed to show more perseverance.

"We had some chances. We could have buried a couple more it would be a different hockey game," he said. "But at the same time we have to play a 60-minute hockey game. We had some struggles. We have to learn from it and move on and get ready for our next game."

In addition to ending the Kings' winning streak, the loss postponed the pursuit of two individual milestones.

Sutter was seeking his 500th regular-season win and Quick was trying to match Rogie Vachon's club record of 171 victories. They will get another chance at those marks on Saturday, when the Kings play host to the Ducks.

"That's always an emotional game. Always intense and physical," Kopitar said. "We've got to be ready for it. It should be a fun game."

Thursday's game would have been more fun for Sutter if the Kings had capitalized on more than one of four power plays and if they had been more responsible during the power play on which Toronto scored its winning goal.

"We turned the puck over penalty killing. That makes it 2-1 late in the period," Sutter said in recapping the scoring. "We scored a power-play goal late in the first, they score a power-play goal late in the first so it's a 2-1 game. It's not frustrating, that part of it.

"The power play cost us the game. In the third period, we gave up a short-handed goal."

Concise, simple, and true.

--

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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