Kings blow the early lead to Sabres in another frustrating loss

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The Sabres scored 4 unanswered goals to storm back and steal a game from the Kings.

In the midst of what has been a rough stretch in their season, the Kings took on a pesky Sabres team looking to grab a win in front of the home crowd. The first period made it seem like Wednesday night could be a promising one for Los Angeles, who jumped out to a 3-1 lead courtesy of goals from Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe, and Pierre-Luc Dubois. Buffalo, however, saved their best work for the last two periods. In the second, JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn each scored to bring them even with the Kings at 3 and provide some momentum heading into the final 20 minutes. Once again, Buffalo scored twice with goals from Alex Tuch and Dylan Cozens that went unanswered. Four consecutive goals for the Sabres helped them sneak one out on the road and bring the Kings’ home record this year to 8-9-6.

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

Anze Kopitar gets honored pregame, then reaches another milestone

Before the Kings’ game against the Sabres, Anze Kopitar was honored by the team for Legend in the Making Night. A touching pregame ceremony that included his family and the Kings’ faithful saw their Captain get recognized for some of his incredible accomplishments with the team. Those milestones include the most games played in club history, being only the fourth player in club history to reach 400 goals, having the second-most points in club history, and having the most assists in club history.

Even after all of the pre-game festivities, Kopitar decided that he wasn’t done notching impressive feats. With his goal in the first period, he was able to reach the 40-point mark for his 18th consecutive season. He’s just the 25th player in the history of the NHL to have 18 or more 40-point seasons and is one of only three active players on the list (Kopitar, Ovechkin, Crosby). It was another fitting piece of history to add to his resume on a night that he or his family will not forget anytime soon.

Cam Talbot struggles in the final two periods

Despite earning the lone All-Star bid for the Kings this season, goalie Cam Talbot has been shaky as of recently during the Kings’ rough stretch. After allowing one goal during the first period as Los Angeles jumped out to the early lead, things were looking promising. However, Buffalo took advantage of Talbot and stormed back with 2 goals in each of the final two periods of play. They managed to score 5 times total on 37 shots attempted, which was 3 less than the Kings’ 40 shots. Since January 12, Talbot’s record has gone from 14-9-5 to 14-12-5. Additionally, his GAA has jumped from 2.22 to 2.52 while his save % has gone from .922 to .913. While the team’s struggles definitely cannot be placed solely on Talbot, he and the rest of the team need to figure some things out before they start to lose their grip on a wildcard spot.

Frustration boils over postgame for Kings

After another frustrating loss, Los Angeles has now lost 12 out of their last 14 contests and is five points away from dropping out of a playoff spot. A promising start to the season has become buried by the recent struggle, and the team is showing signs of big frustration. Following the game, coach Todd McLellan did not hold back about how he thought the team played against Buffalo. “That’s unacceptable. We’re up 3-1. We’re maybe not playing our best, but the stupidity that went into that loss is unexplainable.” On the player side of things, Drew Doughty had something to say about the guys in the locker room and their lack of team play.

He stressed that the team can’t stop playing their brand of hockey no matter what type of lead they have and that there shouldn’t be any sort of “cookie nights” during a tough stretch like the one Los Angeles is enduring. It will be up to the men in the locker room to decide how they want to react to the adversity, and it’s up to them to determine if they will continue to take bad losses or use it as motivation to turn the season around. The beginning of the season made it clear that the team has the talent to be dangerous, but now it’s about remembering how to play as a team again and returning to winning ways. Up next for Los Angeles is a three-game road trip, with the first stop against the Avalanche on Friday night. Colorado is dominating so far this season with a 31-14-3 record and will present the Kings with a tough challenge.

The game is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. PT.