Kings headed in wrong di­rec­tion

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Cur­tis Zupke

Win or lose, the Kings were still go­ing to pos­sess first place in the Pa­cific Di­vi­sion af­ter Tues­day. They were the third-high­est scor­ing team in the Western Con­fer­ence and the talk of the NHL to start the sea­son. They still needed change. That was un­der­scored by a 3-2 loss to the Van­cou­ver Canucks at Sta­ples Cen­ter that rep­re­sented their third straight loss. Be­fore­hand the Kings traded Michael Cam­mal­leri to the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers for Jussi Joki­nen in a swap of vet­eran for­wards.

Kings gen­eral man­ager Rob Blake wants reg­u­lar­ity from a bot­tom-six for­ward group that has seen a rota-

tion of prospects, cou­pled with the un­suc­cess­ful re­union with Cam­mal­leri. Blake ac­quired Joki­nen in a trans­ac­tion that came to­gether “fairly quickly” over the last cou­ple of days.

“He’s been a very re­li­able player over his ca­reer and I think that would bring a lit­tle sta­bil­ity to our lineup,” Blake said.

Top to bot­tom, the Kings lacked sta­bil­ity when they squan­dered a 2-0 lead, which came cour­tesy of Anze Ko­pi­tar, who achieved a ca­reer­high nine-game point streak with a tap-in power-play goal at 3:14 of the first pe­riod. Tan­ner Pear­son’s steep-an­gle shot made it past Van­cou­ver goalie An­ders Nils­son 23 sec­onds into the game.

But the Kings find them­selves 0-3 on this home­s­tand, and Alec Martinez summed it up tidily af­ter the an­nounced crowd of 18,230 filed out. “We just stopped play­ing our game,” he said. “They didn’t.”

The Canucks were sparked by Hen­rik Sedin’s shot off Nick Shore, and got power-play goals by Bo Hor­vat and Sven Baertschi, against the Kings’ top-ranked penalty kill. It could have been a steeper climb if not for Jonathan Quick’s de­nial of Bran­don Sut­ter on a sec­ond-pe­riod penalty shot, awarded when Sut­ter was slashed on a break to the net.

“We just need to look at our­selves,” Pear­son said. “We all know the way we can play. We’ve done it in spurts. In some games, we’ve done it the whole game. We’ve just got to do it for 60 min­utes and not 10 min­utes in the first pe­riod.”

Baertschi’s goal came af­ter an in­ad­ver­tent high-stick­ing penalty by Andrew Crescenzi in his NHL de­but, which hap­pened af­ter 251 games played in the mi­nors. He was an un­drafted signee by the Toronto Maple Leafs and ar­rived to the Kings in a 2014 trade.

“It’s been a long time,” Crescenzi said be­fore the game. “I’m grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity.”

As the Kings said hello to Crescenzi, they said good­bye to Cam­mal­leri again. His sign­ing of a one-year, $1-mil­lion con­tract on the first day of free agency did not make waves, es­pe­cially as the Kings’ big of­fen­sive catch. It was a low-risk home­com­ing for the 15-year NHL player af­ter he spent the first five sea­sons of his ca­reer here.

Cam­mal­leri was re­united with for­mer line­mates Ko­pi­tar and Dustin Brown in train­ing camp, but the nos­tal­gia ended there.

He was scratched twice in Oc­to­ber and his ice time sank to a ca­reer-low 12 min­utes, 38 sec­onds per game. Cam­mal­leri con­trib­uted three goals and four as­sists and was on the first power-play unit as re­cently as this month, but his role be­came fur­ther re­duced with the break­throughs of Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe.

Blake did not say if Cam­mal­leri re­quested a trade but con­firmed that Cam­mal­leri was unhappy. “I don’t think he en­joyed the role that he was in, by any means,” Blake said. “I won’t tell you a lot about our con­ver­sa­tions but [what] I’ll tell you is that we came to the con­clu­sion it wasn’t go­ing the di­rec­tion he wanted it to.”

Joki­nen, 34, will play for his sev­enth team in a 13-year ca­reer that peaked sta­tis­ti­cally with 30 goals for the Carolina Hur­ri­canes in 2009-10. He has 186 goals in 905 ca­reer games but had only one point in 14 games with Ed­mon­ton this sea­son.

Etc.

Mar­ian Ga­borik (knee) looks to be within a cou­ple of week of re­turn­ing, per­haps in early De­cem­ber, Blake said. … Ko­pi­tar’s streak is tied for the long­est ac­tive point streak in the NHL.

Harry How Getty Images

KINGS DE­FENSE­MAN Derek For­bort checks Canucks for­ward Brock Boeser into the boards in the first pe­riod. The Kings lost their third game in a row.

Chris Carl­son Associated Press

TAN­NER PEAR­SON, who scored 23 sec­onds into the game, is stopped this time by goalie An­ders Nils­son.

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