Twice in this year's playoffs the Kings have endured three-game losing streaks; in the first round against the San Jose Sharks and in the second round against the Anaheim Ducks.
With a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks
in Game 1
of the NHL Western Conference final, the Kings now have a rather pedestrian 8-7 post-season record. What's worse is the fact they are up against a team that has owned them over the past two seasons.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks now boast a 10-2 record over the Kings in regular season and playoff meetings in the last two seasons and are 4-0 against Los Angeles this season.
At the conclusion of Sunday's 3-1 loss, sombre Kings coach Darryl Sutter felt his team got off to a slow start, but said he wasn't displeased with the overall effort. The Blackhawks had a few more days off than the Kings between the second and third rounds. Sutter did not believe fatigue hurt his team drastically.
"The only time I noticed it quite honestly was early in the game when they were going to come out with some energy and did," Sutter said. "I think there were two or three times in the first where we got caught at the end of shifts and that's where it showed up. Other than that I don't think it really hurt us that much."
Kings rookie centre Tyler Toffoli
, who scored his fourth goal of the playoffs and supplied his team with plenty of youthful energy, added, "I don't think we were tired. Obviously it was a long day of travel, but I think we were all ready and we were all focused."
Although the Kings are accustomed to playing while trailing a series in this year's playoffs, it is not a position they are comfortable with.
"You don't want to be playing from behind," Toffoli said. "In the playoffs it's always tight, but we've got to get a lot better. We can score on some of our chances and be harder on the puck. We didn't get the best scoring chances. We've got to get in front of [Chicago goalie Corey Crawford] to score some of those dirty goals."
Toffoli said scoring a goal to tie the game after Chicago had a goal disallowed gave the Kings a lift, but added, "One goal isn't enough. We've got to score more than one goal to make it in the playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks."
Veteran defenceman Willie Mitchell
was thrilled to be back in the lineup with the Kings after missing action with a hamstring injury.
Like his coach, Mitchell felt the Kings played a decent game; just not good enough to beat a powerhouse like the Blackhawks.
"I think we played pretty well, but I think you have to play pretty great to beat a good hockey club over there," Mitchell said. "We turned a few pucks over and they are a great rush team that makes you pay. They did that tonight and I think we have to clean that," said up. We can't make turnovers in the neutral zone and allow those rush chances and that'll give us a chance."
Mitchell said the decision for him to play was made in the morning. He had been aching to get into the lineup.
"I was excited my teammates gave me this opportunity," said Mitchell, who hadn't played since April 28 and missed the entire Anaheim series. "It was a hard-fought series against the Ducks and they gave me an opportunity to get in here and be a part of this. I just wish it was a little better result for us."
Mitchell said he felt good physically.
"The first one is always the easiest because you are so pumped with adrenalin; it's the second and third [games] after being off for a couple of weeks where you have to play a smarter game."
Get to the net
Kings centre Anze Kopitar
, who leads the playoffs in scoring, but didn't get a point in Game 1, thinks his team needs to work harder to get goals.
"I think we can do a better job of getting in front of the net and making it harder on their goalie," Kopitar said. "We had some pretty good shots, but nobody was hanging around so he was able to see everything."
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