Penguins’ rally comes up short in loss to Kings |
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Jonathan Bombulie
The Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury reacts after a goal by the Kings' Milan Lucic during the second period Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES — Eric Fehr knows how close the Penguins came to staging a comeback and tying Saturday’s game with the Los Angeles Kings.

He saw Sidney Crosby bring the Penguins within a goal with tons of time left in the third period. He watched two near-misses by Beau Bennett in the last eight minutes.

Still, he wasn’t impressed.

“Almost doesn’t count,” Fehr said. “I’m not really looking at that third (period) thinking we were really that close. We’ve got to do something about it early in the game.”

Early in the game, the Kings were the dominant team. Drew Doughty scored a power-play goal to kick-start a four-goal second period and lead the Kings to a 5-3 victory at Staples Center.

The Penguins are 1-1 on a four-game Western road trip that continues Sunday night in Anaheim.

“We got a couple goals, but I would have liked to see us get a few more opportunities early and really break down their system,” Fehr said. “We know the way they’re going to play. We have to find a better way to break it down.”

The first period was scoreless, but it probably was more indicative of how the game went than any other stretch.

The Penguins managed just three shots, not getting their first until Olli Maatta lobbed a wrister on net midway through the period.

Meanwhile, the Kings were building to something. They got 10 pucks to the net, starting with unscreened perimeter shots, then advancing to more dangerous shots through traffic.

Their bigger forwards, most notably 6-foot-3, 224-pound Anze Kopitar, protected the puck effectively in the offensive zone. Later in the game, Kopitar held off three Penguins defenders in a scrum in the corner to set up a Jake Muzzin goal that put the Kings up 4-1.

“They did exactly what the L.A. Kings do,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. “They came in and played a very structured game and outworked us and won a majority of the puck battles.”

While the Penguins struggled with the Kings’ size down low, Los Angeles scored two of its four goals in the second period off the rush.

Ex-Penguins defenseman Christian Ehrhoff made the score 2-0 at the 9:53 mark after Evgeni Malkin’s line got caught low.

Milan Lucic made the score 3-0 about a minute later off a blocked Matt Cullen shot.

“They countered quick,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. “Sometimes when you’re reloading on the forecheck, you’ve got to get above your guy.

“I thought we let guys slightly in behind us. The other part is I don’t think our defense had a great gap. Once they got the puck in the neutral zone, we gave them too much skating room.”

The onslaught didn’t last forever, as the Penguins steadily chipped their way back into the game.

Crosby camped out behind the net and set up Chris Kunitz for a goal from the high slot to make the score 3-1 with 8:20 left in the second.

Maatta came off the right-wing boards, took a pass from Kunitz behind the net and shoveled a backhand past Quick to make the score 4-2 with 1:59 left before intermission.

Finally, Crosby redirected in a Brian Dumoulin pass from the blue line to make the score 4-3 with more than 17 minutes left.

“Our start wasn’t great,” Crosby said. “It was just kind of catch-up from there.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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