There are certain NHL teams in which establishing a lead against is almost imperative.
The Los Angeles Kings are definitely one of those teams.
In a matchup of two of the stingiest even-strength teams in the league, the Kings jumped on top early with a pair of first-period goals. Alec Martinez scored the first on a slap shot that deflected off the Flyers' Taylor Leier, and Kings forward Trevor Lewis followed up with a snap shot that beat Brian Elliott following a poor line change and a mix-up in coverage (see highlights).
“The first [goal], he just beat me with the shot,” Elliott, who lost for the first time in seven starts, said. “It was kind of a line change where we lost our coverage.”
“I didn’t think we were sharp enough,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We start off by giving up a faceoff goal. The second goal is through the neutral zone on a line change. I didn’t think we made them work hard enough for the opportunities that they scored their goals on.”
According to the website NaturalStatTrick.com, the Flyers generated 16 scoring chances at even strength but only a season-low two from the high-danger areas, where the Kings controlled the middle of the ice and pushed the play to the perimeter.
“It was a tight. Tight game,” Flyers forward Jakub Voracek said. “They didn’t make any mistakes. We had to make a big push to create something 5-on-5. We had a few looks, in the second period especially. We've just got to recover and focus on Wednesday.”
The Flyers had the upper hand with six power-play opportunities to the Kings' one, but they couldn’t break through and score more than once against the NHL’s No. 1-ranked penalty kill.
“We couldn’t score on the power play,” Voracek said. “The power play lost the game. Unfortunately, we only got one [goal]. Give them credit, they played a good road game. I think (Jonathan) Quick was outstanding in net. We just couldn’t find a way to score more than one.”
Impressively, the Flyers had not allowed more than one goal in any period throughout their six-game winning streak. The Kings, the best third-period team in hockey with a 46-21 goal differential, bucked that trend and touched up the Flyers for two goals in the closing period to seal the win.
“They have a lot of experience,” Sean Couturier said. “They have won in the past and they know how to win. When you’re down early in the game and you can’t back in it early, it gets tougher and tougher. They kind of know how to close games.”
Returning to Philadelphia brought back fond memories for Kings head coach John Stevens, who won a Calder Trophy with the Phantoms as well as coached the Flyers from October 2006 to December 2009.
“That was brought up earlier, playing back in Philly,” Stevens said. “I’ll be totally honest, it’s nice to be where my kids grew up. It’s home for them. This was a big game for us on this trip. We really wanted to take two points home for us, so it’s just a nice win against a quality hockey team.”
With a win, the Flyers were hoping to match the dubious record held by the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs, who won seven straight games immediately following a 10-game winless streak. The Flyers feel they can shake off this loss and recapture their winning ways when they close out their five-game homestand against the Red Wings on Wednesday.
“I thought our guys did a really good job, six in a row after not winning 10,” Elliott said. “I think we have to really look at the positive and stop this at one game and move onto the next game. I don’t think we need to hang our heads too low here.”