The hot seat designed especially for Coach John Stevens heated up real fast Saturday afternoon following a 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, with the typically somber man behind the bench offering no real solutions:
“…don’t have an answer at this second [on what’s needed to turn around the Kings]. I thought after the way we played the other night we would come and rip the doors off the engines today…I don’t have an answer right now.”
-John Stevens, Los Angeles Kings Head Coach
After allowing a touchdown to the New York Islanders on Thursday in a 7-2, the LA-faithful dragged themselves out of bed for an early afternoon tilt with the once-lowly Sabres. The result was no different as the Kings unproductively danced to another blowout in their fourth straight loss.
Jeff Skinner scored three goals, en route to his fifth career hat trick after Buffalo head couch Phil Housley shuffled his lines to get more production. Jason Pominville added a goal and two assists and captain Jack Eichel tallied three assists to pace the Sabres.
Meanwhile the Kings stumbled through the first two periods passing up scoring chances and meandering through power plays. For a team who has been outscored 21-5 in their current losing streak, the Kings didn’t exactly rip the doors off the engines and looked like strangers throughout most of the first period.
The lone first period highlight from both teams was the opening goal by Pominville as he crashed the net on Jonathan Quick (21 saves) and got the puck to the back of the net in a sequence that was more Keystone Cops rather than big boy hockey.
In the first of a handful of puzzling Coach Stevens moves, he elected to challenge a goal that would most likely have no shot of being overturned, and guess what? It wasn’t overturned and the Kings lost their timeout for no good reason.
As it turned out, it didn’t matter if the Kings had five timeouts in this total domination by the Sabres. In case you don’t have your NHL app open, the Sabres finished with 62 points last season and hadn’t beaten the Kings in Los Angeles since 2003. Sheesh!
Stevens continued his line shuffling, confusing the chemistry on ice altogether and sent the fans inside Staples Center scrambling for their scorecards to see see who’s who. Alas, aside from an Ilya Kovalchuk post ringer nothing worked. The Kings trailed 4-0 after surrendering a patented late period goal with 19:45 of the second to a chorus of boos and a smattering of Hey Ho Buffalo chants from those smart enough to leave upstate New York for the year-round warmth of California.
The best in ice action was turned in by referee Francois St. Laurent who snagged Vladimir Sobotka’s flying stick in the second (even the video folks inside Staples awarded it the Jack Black highlight of the game):
Through the third only a rocket power play goal off the stick of Drew Doughty gave any sense of joy.
Stevens, who very much looks like a person on the aforementioned hot seat, pulled the ultimate desperation move with the score 4-1 puling Quick with 4:55 left in the third. It took a while but the Sabres iced this game on Skinner’s third goal at 19:35 19:35and three celebratory hats hitting the ice, one for each of his goals.
After the game and an exceptionally long locker room conference, Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin offered the most disheartening quote since the players locked out Daryl Sutter two years ago: “I don’t think we have enough fire or emotion or passion to win games right now.”