For a moment during Game 5 on Friday night, it looked like the Los Angeles Kings could stave off from being eliminated by the San Jose Sharks. After giving up three unanswered goals, the Kings fought back to tie up the game by the end of the second period. It seemed like the makings of a comeback that could change the direction and tone of the entire series, but all of that changed within four minutes into the third.
Just two seasons ago, the Kings completed a nail-biting and grueling run to the Stanley Cup. It was their second Cup in only three years, and they won it after defying elimination and stretching each of their first three rounds to seven games.
Los Angeles fell from grace after falling short of making the playoffs last year, and during the 2015-2016 regular season, it looked like not only would the Kings make the playoffs, but they would do so with points to spare. The Kings did indeed clinch a playoff spot this year, and they broke a club-record for the most wins during a regular season.
Their historic regular season record however was tainted by a lackluster finish, with the team winning only four of their last eleven games (and two of their last five games). It was an unsettling way to complete the season, to be sure, and the losses cast a dark shadow over the franchise-breaking record.
It may not have even mattered, therefore, who the Kings faced in their first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, because whatever led to their unimpressive regular season finish kept nagging at them throughout each of their five games against the Sharks.
With consecutive goals during Friday night’s elimination game from Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Kris Versteeg, the Kings showed signs of life and knotted up the scoreboard at three goals even going into the third period. It would not matter, however, because the Sharks took back control of the game with a goal just under four minutes after starting the final period.
San Jose never looked back, scoring an insurance goal at 12:24 and an empty netter at the end of the game, without any response from the Kings.
Whether it was due to the lack of scoring from the Kings’ top forwards, the absence of strong defensive play, or an apparent depletion of willpower, the Kings were unable to assert themselves against the Sharks before getting pushed back into the corner.
After missing playoffs last year, and being eliminated so soundly this year, the Los Angeles Kings will undoubtedly look for ways to evolve during their long off-season.