The overtime conundrum.

During a sprawling end-of-season interview with reporters last week, I asked Kings general manger Dean Lombardi about his team’s overtime problem.

Whether it was 4-on-4 during the regular season (when they went 1-4) or 5-on-5 during the playoffs (when they went 0-3), the Kings didn’t take kindly to the whole sudden-death thing. Of course in the regular season, there was always the promise of a shootout to bail them out; no team did better in the skills competition last season than the Kings (10-2).

But that didn’t mean much in the playoffs. As many observers feared, the regular-season trend continued and the Kings lost all three overtime games against the Sharks, costing them the series.

Is there something to that?

“You wonder that if you get to an overtime that that’s when now it swings more toward the offensive side of the equation,” Lombardi said. “It was said to me yesterday, actually … ‘defense wins games, but offense wins overtimes,’ is the way it was put to me. This hockey person is pretty sharp. He wasn’t sure on it, but if you think that, there might be something to that.”

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San Jose 4, Kings 3, OT.

“Overtime” and “heartbreak” went together well for the Kings in this year’s playoffs. So did “Staples Center” and “heartbreak.”

“Kings” and “heartbreak”? Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.

Joe Thornton’s goal at 2:22 of overtime ended the Kings’ season Monday with a 4-3 loss at Staples. The Kings finished 0-3 at home in the series, 0-3 in overtime, and finished this season right where they ended the last: Done for the season after six playoff games.

Players and coaches won’t be available to the media tomorrow, so a full-fledged “obituary” of the season will have to wait until Wednesday.

The hot-button issue after the game was the absence of Terry Murray and any Kings coaches in the postgame handshake, as described here and here.

I put a request out to the Kings for comment. Like the obituary, it may have to wait.

A few factoids for now:
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Sharks 6, Kings 3.

Maybe you had forgotten about Anze Kopitar, but Terry Murray hasn’t.

The question after Thursday’s Game 4 loss was fairly innocuous –can any lineup changes be made at this point, down three games to one? — but the answer was revealing.

“I’m playing what I’ve got,” Murray said. “Kopitar’s not coming back, guys. He’s got a broken leg.”

Well, yeah. We knew that.

Maybe the more important question is, why can’t the Kings play defense all of a sudden?

They scored twice in the final nine minutes of the second period to spoil Antti Niemi’s shutout and pull within 3-2 heading into the final frame.

Yet just as the wheels came off in the second period of Game 3, when San Jose erupted for five goals to erase a 4-0 Kings lead,there was Joe Thornton and no one else, alone in the slot with all the time in the world to score the Sharks’ fourth goal.

“That was a big goal for us,” San Jose forward Logan Couture said. “That gave us the confidence back, the swagger we have on the ice.”

The Sharks scored the next two goals to make it a 6-2 game, and the verdict was unsealed: It was going to take a miracle for the Kings to save this series.

Catch all the game details in tomorrow’s editions. Here are a few notes that won’t make the paper. Some more notes and observations:
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Sharks 6, Kings 5, OT.

The hashtags and catchphrases were skipping through cyberspace within a half-hour of Devin Setoguchi’s goal at 3:09 of overtime: “The Failure on Figueroa.”

After squandering a 4-0, second-period lead, the Kings’ 6-5 overtime loss in Game 3 to the San Jose Sharks can be seen as nothing less.

“We’ve got to look at what happened in the second (period), learn from it,” a despondent Kings captain Dustin Brown said, “because we don’t have the type of team that can take periods off, especially at this time of year.”

Apparently the Sharks do — a revelation that may ultimately prove the difference in the series.

Antti Niemi was pulled after allowing four goals on 10 shots, the last of which came 44 seconds into the second period on a Brad Richardson wrister.

Somehow, inexplicably, the Sharks shed the ghosts of postseasons past by scoring five goals over the remainder of the second period. Only a backdoor, breakaway tally by Ryan Smyth interrupted the onslaught and kept the teams tied at 5 heading into the third period.

“[It was] puck management,” Brown said. “We needed to get the puck deep on them. They’re a fast offensive team and we gave them chances and plays. They can find lanes and open areas to get some goals, and that’s kind of what happened with the overtime goal. They transitioned it from their end, and it was pretty quick.”

Like ripping off a band-aid, Setoguchi’s first goal of the series provided a stinging, decisive conclusion to a back-and-forth game.

The question now: How deep do the Kings’ emotional wounds run?

“It stings right now,” Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. “We got to let it go though right away. You give yourself tonight, you feel bad about it, but tomorrow’s a new day.”
Continue reading “Sharks 6, Kings 5, OT.” »

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Brief Monday practice notes.

Jarret Stoll and Ian White were texting each other over the weekend. Stoll was suspended one game by the NHL for hitting White into the end boards Thursday, which resulted in the Sharks defenseman missing Game 2 himself with a head injury.

“We just chatted a couple times,” said Stoll. “He appreciated the text and me reaching out to him. I wanted to make sure I did that, let him know I didn’t want to hurt him in any way.”

Heck, they could have discussed the incident in the press box at HP Pavilion (although it’s worth debating whether climbing several flights of stairs to watch a hockey game being played more than 100 feet below you is recommended for anyone coming off a head injury).

Stoll and White can continue their conversation on the ice Tuesday at Staples Center, when the Sharks and Kings clash in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series.

White told reporters Monday in San Jose that he’s feeling well enough to play. Among the Sharks’ better point-producing defensemen, a healthy White could cause the Kings some trouble. But Stoll was understandably relieved at the news that White had returned to practice.

“That’s good to hear,” he said. “From the start, there wasn’t any intent to go in and hurt the guy. I know him a little bit, playing against him in junior. I know he’s a good guy.”
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Kings 4, Sharks 0.

The Kings did not so much as steal a win Saturday, as they did dominate in such a fashion that makes you wonder why they can’t win every night.

After converting their first two power plays of the game –amazing what that can do for a team –the Kings were able to do what they do best: Play conservative, defensive hockey and give Jonathan Quick a fairly easy path to a 34-save shutout.

Drew Doughty was the offensive catalyst, scoring two goals and assisting on the other two, and tying a franchise record for most points in a playoff game by a defenseman. Paul Coffey was the first Kings defenseman with four points in a playoff game.

“It was a very big win coming into this building in game 2,” Kings head coach Terry Murray said. “We were a little short with key players out of the line-up. That requires a really competitive attitude by everyone that’s playing. Guys have to really dig in and play hard for each other and I think that’s the competitive spirit that our team has shown many, many times over the last few years.”

With Jarret Stoll serving a one-game suspension for his Game 1 hit on Ian White (who was replaced in the Sharks’ lineup by Niclas Wallin), Oscar Moller and Trevor Lewis were the primary beneficiaries of the minutes at center. Moller played 10:37, finishing plus-1, while Lewis played 17 minutes.

Kyle Clifford and Jack Johnson each had a goal and an assist for the KIngs, who were outshot 34-23.

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Reports: One-game suspension for Stoll.

According to multiple reports, Kings center Jarret Stoll will be suspended one game by the NHL for this hit on San Jose Sharks defenseman Ian White in the first period of Game 1 on Thursday:

The Kings, of course, are already playing without top center Anze Kopitar. Oscar Moller is the only spare player on the current roster with experience at center, though he’s been used as a winger since his last recall from Manchester. Speculation will turn to the AHL again, where centers Cory Elkins and John Zeiler have some NHL experience, and Justin Azevedo and Tyler Toffoli are also available.

But none of those names will entice as much speculation as prospect Brayden Schenn, who was assigned to Manchester by the Kings after his junior club, the Saskatoon Blades, was eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs Wednesday.

Schenn, 19, was the Kings’ first-round draft pick (fifth overall) in 2009. He appeared in eight games for the Kings in October, collecting no goals and two assists, before eventually being re-assigned to juniors. Schenn had 57 points (22 goals, 35 assists) in only 29 games for the Blades and Brandon Wheat Kings this season. In between, he was named Tournament MVP for silver-medal-winning Canada at the World Junior Championships in January.

In March, The Hockey News named Schenn the number one overall prospect in hockey.

Schenn played both a top-six and bottom-six role at times during his brief NHL stint this season. Though he — or any of the Monarchs’ centers, if the Kings choose to go that route — could supplant Stoll between Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown, one of those players could also slide back in to a fourth-line role Game 2 on Saturday in San Jose, with Trevor Lewis moving up in the lineup.

Update: As first reported by TSN, the Kings will recall Zeiler from Manchester.

Update two: According to multiple reports, the Kings will not recall Zeiler, or anyone, from Manchester.

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San Jose 3, Kings 2, OT.

Joe Pavelski’s goal at 14:44 of overtime ended an impressive upset bid by the Kings in Game 1 in San Jose. There will be more chances to steal wins from the Sharks -but will this be the best?

Down 1-0 on the scoreboard and outshot 18-3, the Kings bounced back after a sluggish start to neutralize the speedy, physical Sharks. Dany Heatley scored on a goal-front tap-in 28 seconds into the game, but Dustin Brown got the next goal off a breakaway pass from Justin Williams at 7:25 of the second period.

Logan Couture snuck a shot through the pads of Jonathan Quick (42 saves) less than three minutes later, at the 10:23 mark, but Williams wasn’t done. One day after declaring his separated right shoulder healthy enough for action, the veteran right wing beat Antti Niemi (33 saves) from behind the net to tie the game at 2 at 16:20 of the second period.

The Kings killed off a tripping penalty to Drew Doughty with 2:11 left in regulation to send the game into overtime.

The Kings had their chances in the extra period, putting nine shots on goal to the Sharks’ 14. The 14th was the dagger.

Ryane Clowe started the sequence in the defensive zone, picking the puck off Wayne Simmonds’s stick to start a 2-on-2 rush going the other way. Pavelski joined the play as Kings defenseman Alec Martinez fell down in the defensive zone and couldn’t get back in time to prevent Pavelski from getting off a clean one-timer from the right circle that sailed over Quick’s glove.

A few more notes:
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First round series set: Kings vs. Sharks. Updates with schedule.

The Kings are hoping the second all-California NHL playoff series ends just like the first: In favor of Southern California.

The Chicago Blackhawks’ 4-3 home loss to Detroit on Sunday means that the Kings will be the seventh seed in the Western Conference and play the second-seeded San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs.

The Sharks will have home-ice advantage when the best-of-seven series starts, which begins Thursday.

Update: Here is the schedule:

Game 1 at San Jose Thursday, 7 p.m.
Game 2 at San Jose Saturday, 7 p.m.
Game 3 at Kings April 19, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4 at Kings April 21, 7:30 p.m.
Game 5 * at San Jose April 23, 7:30 p.m.
Game 6 * at Kings April 25, TBD
Game 7 * at San Jose April 27, TBD
* = if necessary

The Kings and Sharks have never played each other in the playoffs, but the Kings do have experience winning as a seventh seed: Their last playoff series victory came in 2000, when the seventh-seeded Kings toppled the second-seeded Detroit Red Wings in six games.

To repeat the feat would require a sizable upset, but not any more so than the Ducks’ six-game series victory over the Presidents Trophy-winning Sharks in 2009.
Continue reading “First round series set: Kings vs. Sharks. Updates with schedule.” »

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