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Who Sucks Today? The Los Angeles Kings.

November 14, 2009

by Rich Hammond
Thrashers 7, Kings 0

ATLANTA — The Kings got quite a thrashing Friday night.

It’s not that the Kings were dreadful for all 60 minutes. In fact, by all accounts they were pretty good for the first 30, as they recorded the better of the offensive chances and looked comfortable with the pace of the scoreless game.

Then, just as the Kings seemed as though they might get their engine into another gear, they suffered four flat tires.

The Atlanta Thrashers scored four goals — on four consecutive shots — in the span of 5 minutes, 4 seconds, in the second period and went on to crush the Kings 7-0 on Friday night at Philips Arena.

The loss was the Kings’ worst (by margin) since a 10-1 loss at Buffalo on Jan. 14, 2006 and their worst shutout loss since a 9-0 loss to the Hartford Whalers on Nov. 27, 1985.

“It’s an ugly game, it’s an ugly finish, and we have to move on and get ready for the next one here,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “I’m not blowing it off. We can’t just put it behind us that easily, but we do have a game tomorrow night.”

It started, as most disasters do, with one “uh-oh” moment. An otherwise harmless puck hit Davis Drewiske’s skate midway through the second period and deflected into the Kings’ net, and the floodgates opened.

Evander Kane scored that goal, at the 10:22 mark.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored at the 12:28 mark.

Zach Bogosian scored at the 14:16 mark.

Maxim Afinogenov scored at the 15:26 mark.

That’s four Thrashers goals in just more than five minutes, three of them scored on starting goalie Jonathan Quick and the fourth on relief goalie Erik Ersberg, who entered after Bogosian’s goal and gave up four more.

Kovalchuk, Afinogenov and Kane all scored their second goals of the game in the third period, with Kane scoring a shorthanded goal. Kovalchuk and Afinogenov each had two assists.

“After a game like that, it starts individually,” Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. “Everybody has got to take a look at their own game. If you get pumped 7-0, you obviously have to give credit to the other team, but at the same time you have to look within yourself, to what you can do to make yourself better and make the team better, and then go from there.

“I think that’s what we have to do. Just take a long look at our games and see how they have to be different going into tomorrow night, and correct it.”

The game got ugly at times, and not just during a second-period brawl that ended with 50 penalty minutes and two game misconducts.

With 1:59 remaining, Kings forward Justin Williams smashed Christoph Schubert from behind near the Atlanta bench, sending Schubert sprawling through the bench door. Williams got a five-minute penalty for checking from behind and a game-misconduct penalty.

The Kings outshot the Thrashers 38-21, but none of those shots got past Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who recorded his first career shutout.

After the game, the Kings sat quietly, their only consolation being a chance to redeem themselves with Saturday night’s game at Tampa Bay. The Kings will enter that game with losses in three of their last four games.

“You kind of forget about the scoreboard,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “I think the important thing was trying to get back to playing the right way, but then some of the same stuff happened in the third, so it wasn’t a good game at all for us, obviously.”

The Thrashers broke the scoreless tie 10:22 into the second period after some hard work behind the Kings’ net and a lucky bounce. Kane went behind the net and was marked closely by Anze Kopitar. Kane went for a centering pass, but it went off the skate of the unsuspecting Drewiske in front and into the net.

The Thrashers took a 2-0 lead just 2:06 later. Michal Handzus mishandled the puck just inside the Atlanta blue line. Afinogenov picked it up and pushed it ahead to Kovalchuk, who skated in alone and beat Quick with a wrist shot.

Atlanta scored its third goal in less than four minutes when Bogosian carried the puck up the right side, faked a shot that got defenseman Randy Jones a bit off balance, then fired a wrist shot from the circle that cleanly beat Quick.

After that goal, Murray pulled Quick in favor of Ersberg.

“It’s a little bit of both there,” Murray said when asked whether he pulled Quick because of his poor play or the team’s poor play. “The goals came quickly. The third goal, that’s a critical goal. It’s 2-0, there’s still a lot of time left on the clock to get back into it, and you’ve got to make a save.

“That’s a routine play coming at you. You’ve got to get a save on that. But also, we did give up a couple breakaways too, so I’m not laying it all on the shoulders of the goaltenders here.”

The goalie change kept the Thrashers off the scoreboard for exactly 70 seconds.

With 4:34 remaining, Afinogenov got behind the Kings’ defense and scored on a breakaway, as he deked and tucked the puck around Ersberg.

“That was a tough start, with the breakaway right away, and I couldn’t really get into the game,” Ersberg said. “They didn’t have too many shots either, so they pretty much scored on the chances they had.

“They’ve got some speed, that’s for sure. They’ve got some skill.”

The Kings, amazingly, outshot the Thrashers 12-8 in the second period. Both goalies had faced moderate pressure in the first period, as the Kings outshot the Thrashers 11-8. The shots didn’t tell the story though, since the Thrashers scored seven goals on 13 shots in the second and third periods.

Kovalchuk got his second goal of the game, on the power play, exactly six minutes into the third period. Nik Antropov passed from the right side, and Kovalchuk scored on a one-timer slap shot from the high slot.

The Kings had the best scoring chance of the period, at the 9:15 mark, when Alexander Frolov was in the clear but put a backhand shot into the right pad of Pavelec.

Lost in all the offense was the outstanding play of Pavelec, who returned to the net after dreadful performances in his previous three outings. Pavelec played with confidence and made several strong saves in front of the net in the first period.

“The game could have been different, that’s for sure,” Brown said. “We had our chances in the first and we had some chances early in the second. If we have one goal, it might be a different game, but we didn’t, and they capitalized and created a lot of chances very quickly.”

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