Kings Continue Season Slide, Fall to Ducks 7-4

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images/NHL.com

Stanley Cup hangovers have proved to be problems of varying degrees for teams coming off of a championship. Blame the perpetual photo shoot sessions and unending praise from complete strangers and an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment for a sluggish start to a new year. It’s easy to do those things. But when looking at this 48-game schedule, it’s also easy to point towards the especially extended offseason, coupled with the fact that the Kings’ roster is basically identical to the one which won the Stanley Cup last June and wonder why the team isn’t winning more. Right now it doesn’t appear that head coach Darryl Sutter has that answer either. Saturday night in Anaheim, the Kings lost a high-scoring affair to the division-rival Ducks to fall to a lowly 2-3-2.

2012 Vezina Trophy finalist Jonathan Quick was positively unlike himself, purely based on the score after ten minutes of play. Ducks rookie skater Nick Bonino registered two goals in less than six minutes to open the contest and put the Kings in an early hole. It’s also signaled an exit for Quick as he was pulled in favor of backup netminder Jonathan Bernier. It was the first time the latter has seen the ice since March of last year. For Quick, it was the first time he has been relieved in nearly one calendar year.

To the Kings’s credit, they answered in almost the same amount of time it took for the Ducks to build their lead. A perfectly-passed power play goal from the captain Dustin Brown easily beat opposing goaltender Jonas Hiller, right before a Jarret Stoll slapshot evened the score with the period not quite halfway over. Not to be outdone, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf connected on a delicate saucer pass of their own to take a 3-2 lead.

The game would be tied two more times before the final buzzer sounded. Brown scored his second of the night and third on the season with a power play tally to open up the second period. This was the away squad’s second power goal of the evening, a welcome improvement from the mediocre showing special teams has displayed over the early season. Even with last night’s improvements, the Kings have a woeful 10.8% success percentage on the power play, which is good for twenty-seventh in the league. Only the New York Rangers, Boston, and Colorado have stumbled more than these bumbling Kings.

A goal from the ageless Sheldon Souray would give the lead back to Anaheim a few moments later. Soon after, Justin Williams collected his first of the season with a pretty backhanded flip that literally crawled up Hiller’s shoulder before falling behind him. It was the kind of goal that goaltenders lose sleep over—just ugly from the sequence’s start to finish. Fortunately for Hiller, it was the last he would surrender on the night.

The Ducks showed off their power play prowess (3/4 in the game) with two more man-advantage goals from Kyle Palmieri and (who else?) Bonino, who saw the crowd’s hat litter the ice following his first career hat trick. It’s an impressive feat for the 24-year-old, especially when considering his mere ten minutes and four seconds of total ice time.

Teemu Selanne capped off the contest with an empty-netter to give Anaheim the 7-4 home victory. The win puts his team at 5-1-1 on the season. That’s a mere four points behind the smoking hot San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division and five points ahead of the basement-dwelling defending champs.

A case of shaky Quick was bound to happen sooner or later. The team can’t rely on the guy to win every game for them, much in the same way he did last year once Sutter came aboard. But the offense and aforementioned special teams did show up tonight in a big way. For the other anonymous sickness which ails these Kings right now, they better find an antidote soon. The team will play seven of their next eight games on the road, with stops in St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit. It’s a tough stretch by any measure.

First up is Tuesday against Columbus at 7pm EST.