For one night, the LA Kings looked like the team they once were and not the worst team in the NHL with veterans on the trade block. LA center Jeff Carter created a couple of goals and scored one, too. LA changed the game with a shorthanded goal in the second period and goalie Jonathan Quick made a few great saves in crucial moments as LA slipped past the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The loss broke the Penguins six-game road winning streak.
Early in the first period, the Penguins scored their fifth shorthanded goal of the season. It wasn’t the prettiest thing in LA but it did the trick. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel got the jump on the fumbling LA power play for a two-on-one break. Crosby attempted a late pass to Guentzel but it was deflected into the air. Guentzel (22) twirled to find the puck and backhand it into the wide-open net.
That was the last Penguins highlight for more than 45 minutes. Normally sure-footed Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson made a couple of mistakes, and even usually perfect video review boss Andy Saucier made a mistake when the Penguins lost an early third period offside challenge.
“I thought we beat ourselves in the second period,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “Having said that, I thought we competed hard in the third but we couldn’t find a way to beat Quick.”
Quick was awesome.
The first of the Kings four unanswered goals came in the middle of the first period. Pettersson whiffed on a puck at the offensive blue line. TV replays showed the Penguins to be offside as Pettersson put the puck back into the offensive zone. No matter, LA center Jeff Carter pounced.
Carter (9) raced the length of the ice and rifled a slap shot past Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith.
In the middle of the second period, Carter used Alex Iafallo as a backboard for a deflection goal. Iafallo (10) got position on Pettersson in front of the Penguins net and Carter’s centering pass bounced off him and into the net.
“I’m sure teams notice when you give up (shorthanded) goals against,” said Mike Sullivan. And late in the second period, the Penguins did just that for the 10th time this season
Carter pressured Kris Letang at the point and anticipated Letang’s backhand chip deeper into the zone. He stole the puck for a two-on-one break with Anze Kopitar. Carter dished to Kopitar who was stoned by DeSmith. However, the Penguins defenders failed to secure the rebound and Kopitar (12) didn’t miss his second chance.
“It was a tight game. That shorthanded goal we gave to them was a big turning point,” said Sidney Crosby.
In the first minute of the third period, LA put the game away. The Penguins were ready to transition forward but forgot to stay with their defensive assignments until they had the puck. Brandon Leipsic (4) was left alone in front of the net.
The Penguins remained competitive. In the middle of the third period, Guentzel (23) scored a power-play goal on a sharp dish from Phil Kessel. The Penguins closed within 4-2, but could not beat Quick again.
Quick joined Carter as the LA standouts and stopped 38 of 40 shots. Carter had three points (1g, 2a).
Guentzel had two more goals. He has five goals in the last two games. DeSmith made his first start since signing a three-year contract on Friday. He stopped 20 of 24 shots.
The Penguins now trail the Washington Capitals by three points in the Metro Division and have a one-point lead over Columbus for second place. Columbus beat Washinton on Saturday.