Larry Fitzgerald Jersey

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be one of six speakers and one of three athletes participating in Sen. John McCain’s memorial service in Phoenix on Thursday.

Fitzgerald was asked by Cindy McCain, wife of the late senator, a couple of months ago to speak at the service during a short drive after a visit to the McCain ranch in Cornville, Arizona, about 20 miles south of Sedona.

Fitzgerald told ESPN on Monday before his annual Fitz’s Supper Club fundraiser at Dominick’s Steakhouse in Scottsdale that he was initially “really taken aback” by the request but readily accepted.

“It’s truly one of the greatest honors of my life to be able to talk about somebody who served his country so passionately and had been so dedicated to policies of this nation,” Fitzgerald said. “So, I was really taken aback by it.”

Two other Arizona sports legends will take part in the ceremony.

Former Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez and former Coyotes forward Shane Doan will serve as pallbearers.

All three athletes were close friends of McCain, who died Saturday at age 81.

Fitzgerald will give his tribute to McCain before that of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to the ceremony’s official schedule.

Larry Fitzgerald Jersey
Rest in peace to an American hero, statesman, servant of the people, and dear friend. Godspeed Senator McCain. My prayers for Cindy and the beautiful McCain family.

Fitzgerald said he’ll have five to six minutes to speak, which he said will make it tough to fit in everything he wants to say about McCain.

“Fortunately, I’ve had some time to get prepared and put some of my thoughts on paper,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve had to kind of shorten it down. You have a short window. It’s tough to be able to get everything you want to say. How do you accurately be able to give somebody their due justice who served the United States for 60-plus years, I mean dedicated his entire life.

“You think about those 60-plus years and everything he’s done from his time served as a POW to all the years in the senate, the things he’s done her for the great state of Arizona — and to be able to do that in five or six minutes is extremely difficult. I’m going to do the best I can and try to honor him for the wonderful man that he is.”

The Cardinals have their final preseason game late Thursday afternoon against the Denver Broncos, but while Fitzgerald is expected to be on the sideline, he isn’t expected to play.

McCain had a strong connection to Fitzgerald and the Cardinals. He attended Cardinals games and made an appearance at training camp before the 2017 season. Fitzgerald became friends with the senator, penning a tribute to him last Christmas and visiting him this year.

Thursday’s ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. ET at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix. About 1,000 seats were made available to the public.

Fitzgerald’s eulogy will be about what McCain meant to this country and to him.

“The impact that he’s had on myself, Arizona, the nation,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m just going to try to do the best I can.”

Wholesale Buffalo Sabres Jersey

Sabres forward Evander Kane doesn’t need a fortune teller to understand he’s down to his final days in Buffalo when acknowledging he expects to be dealt before the NHL’s trading deadline on Monday.

“Yeah, if that’s the answer you guys are waiting for,” Kane told reporters following practice Wednesday. “I’m not going to get into what’s been talked about or what hasn’t been talked about, but I think you guys are all pretty smart hockey people.”

The only uncertainty for Kane is when the trade will take place and where he’ll be headed.

“I think the hardest part is the unknown,” Kane said, in preparing to join the Sabres for a two-game road trip starting at Detroit on Thursday. “I’m going to play as hard as I possibly can tomorrow night. And then once the move is made, then we can reflect for that day. But I’ve got a job to do.”

The 26-year-old is expendable for a variety of reasons, starting with his contract which runs out after this season. The Sabres are rebuilding under a new regime, headed by first-year general manager Jason Botterill, and the team has expressed no interest in re-signing Kane, who is expected to command a hefty price tag in free agency this summer.

Kane’s 19 goals in 60 games rank second in Buffalo. He’s scored 20 or more in each of his previous two years since being acquired by the Sabres in a multi-player trade with Winnipeg in February 2015.

The 26-year-old is in his ninth NHL season after being selected No. 4 by the then-Atlanta Thrashers in the 2009 draft.

Kane and New York Rangers forward Rick Nash are considered the two top players available on the trade market with the NHL playoff races entering the stretch run.

The Sabres are on the outside looking in. They sit last in the East and are all but mathematically assured of extending their longest playoff drought to a seventh season.

Also on the block in Buffalo are goalie Robin Lehner, forward Benoit Pouliot and defenseman Josh Gorges, all of whom are in the final year of their contracts.

Coach Phil Housley is braced for a roster shake up and focused solely on preparing his team to play.

“Number 1 is getting ready for Detroit,” Housley said. “That’s what we control is to get our players ready. And Jason (Botterill) is going to do the best job he can moving forward here.”

Kane’s pending departure marks a dramatic setback for a franchise that under former GM Tim Murray pinned its hopes on him being part of its long-term future after finishing last in both 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

Murray dealt defenseman Tyler Myers, forward Drew Stafford, two prospects and a first-round pick in acquiring Kane, defenseman Zach Bogosian and prospect goalie Jason Kasdorf. And it made no difference to Murray that Kane would miss the final two months of the season after having shoulder surgery.

Though Kane has produced on the ice when healthy and been active in working with Buffalo-area charitable groups, he has been questioned for his immaturity off the ice.

Kane has had two legal run-ins, including being arrested for grabbing three women by the hair and neck during an altercation at a Buffalo bar in June 2016. The charges were eventually dismissed on condition Kane stayed out of trouble as part of a plea agreement in which a prosecutor described the player’s behavior as “arrogant, boorish and surly, but not criminal.”

Earlier in the year, the Sabres suspended Kane for one game for missing practice a day after pictures surfaced on social media of the player celebrating in Toronto after attending the NBA All-Star Game.

Kane has been inconsistent this season. After scoring 15 goals and 18 assists in his first 35 games, he has just four goals and two assists in his past 25.

Game notes

Center Jack Eichel was spotted carrying a stick and walking without a protective boot for the first time since spraining his right ankle in a 4-2 win at Boston on Feb. 10. Housley had no update on Eichel’s status. … G Robin Lehner will start against Detroit after missing one game with a hip injury.

Wholesale Calgary Flames Jersey

Average attendance at Benatky nad Jizerou ice hockey games is 276.

This Saturday, they’re moving arenas in the city of Liberec to a venue that seats 7,500.

Jaromir Jagr is back.

Because Jagr hasn’t played since Dec. 31, the Calgary Flames released the NHL’s second all-time leading point-scorer, and he arrived in his Czech Republic homeland this week.

Jaromir Jagr said Thursday he hopes to be able to play for Kladno on Saturday.

Under a scoreboard reading “Return of the king,” Jagr revealed on Thursday in his first news conference at the Kladno Knights, the hometown teams he owns, that he’s been dealing with a ligament injury in his right knee.

Still, he’s aiming to play for Kladno on Saturday against Benatky nad Jizerou.

His return has created a wave of euphoria among fans. Beside Benatky nad Jizerou moving arenas, other clubs in the league report their home matches against Kladno have been sold out for the rest of the season.

The 45-year-old Jagr is determined to finish a frustrating season on ice skates, not on a couch.

“I’m here in Kladno, and my only and main goal is to recover, get back to form as soon as possible, to get healthy and help our team to reach the playoffs and try to advance to the [top Czech] league,” he said.

There’s a chance, if he gets healthy enough, that he could be recalled by Calgary for the NHL playoffs. But that was far from his thoughts, he said.

“My first goal is to get healthy, to start training properly and be able to enjoy hockey, which I can’t do without training,” Jagr said. “If I’m healthy and train, I know that I’ll be hungry to manage something.”

He saw a local doctor for treatment on his knee as he soon as he arrived on Wednesday, and he said his first training on Thursday was painful.

“Today, I felt worse than I expected,” he said. “I was told it should get better but that it would be painful in the next few days.”

Due to his health problems, Jagr said he didn’t consider joining the Czech team in Pyeongchang for what would have been his sixth Olympics.

“Right now, I’m not ready. I’m not good, and I didn’t play many games, so not a chance,” he said.

Jagr was on the Czech team that won the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, the first Games featuring NHL players. He also helped the Czechs win the bronze medal in Turin in 2006.

He said he hoped he could put what has happened so far this season behind him, and “everything will get only better from now.

“I always try to stay positive.”

Jagr is second to Wayne Gretzky on the NHL all-time points list, with 1,921. He said he never cared about statistics but admitted he hoped to join Gretzky at 2,000 points. But it looked unrealistic now.

“Love, as I can see it, is the strongest energy on earth,” he said about the secret behind his long career. “I love hockey all the time. I’ve always loved it and had no problem to sacrifice anything to it. That’s the most important thing, a factor that helps you play as long as possible.”

But “then,” he added, “there’s the body.”

Wholesale Chicago Blackhawks Jersey

The Chicago Blackhawks actually received offensive contributions from multiple sources in Wednesday’s 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers, a welcome sight

Wednesday’s victory on the road over the New York Rangers was much needed for the Chicago Blackhawks. First, it made sure they took advantage of one of their games in hand on a majority of the Western Conference. And second, it got the Blackhawks back to .500 on the road.

Both of those points are important, though the second one is actually pretty interesting. The Rangers have played a ton at home already and have racked up 15 victories in Madison Square Garden, good for third in the league. So for the Blackhawks to come in and outlast New York — also a playoff team right now — is a good sign.

How the Blackhawks did this was also good to see. They used good puck movement and a willingness to get to the key areas on the ice in order to produce three 5-on-5 tallies. They also dominated the possession ledger before the Rangers had to chase most of the third period.

And it was a combination of different players who got the job done. Vinnie Hinostroza proved he needs to be in the lineup by doing something you may not have seen a lot of in his first NHL stint: getting to the net. Jonathan Toews flipped a nice blind backhander to the crease, and Hinostroza swatted it through Henrik Lundqvist.

Nick Schmaltz continued to show his potential, as he screamed down the center of the ice to challenge Lundqvist 1-on-1. With some help from Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, that bid gave the Blackhawks another lead.

And then Patrick Sharp briefly refound his scoring touch, roofing a nasty wrister over the shoulder of Lundqvist and just under the crossbar. Considering how much Sharp shoots the puck, it’s good to see one of those go in.

Give them a hand

This more so refers to the Blackhawks’ continued games in hand on most everyone, versus celebrating the team. After all, Chicago is still two points out of a playoff spot.

Good news on that front is the Blackhawks have a game in hand on Minnesota and two in hand on both Anaheim and Dallas — the three teams currently ahead of them for any wild-card spot. The bad news is the Ducks are tied with San Jose for third in the Pacific Division, and the Sharks have two games in hand on Chicago (they’re the new Wild).

Of course, it’s just the halfway point of the season, so there are a lot of games to play. However, teams that are in the playoffs around the holidays tend to stay there, more often than not. So the Blackhawks will need to take advantage of more of their games in hand and buck that trend.

It won’t exactly be easy in the immediate future, as the Vegas Golden Knights come to town. To give you an idea of how ridiculous this expansion franchise is right now, the Knights lead the Western Conference and have a game in hand on the Blackhawks.

Oh, they’re also 9-0-1 in their last 10 games. If there’s any saving grace for the Blackhawks, it’s that the Knights must play a rugged game in St. Louis tonight before traveling to Chicago. Also, Vegas is a good-but-not-amazing 10-7-1 on the road versus an insane 17-2-1 at home.

But while we can afford to look at the numbers, the Blackhawks can only look at one: those games in hand. And they can’t afford to blow them, even against one of the league’s current top teams.

Chicago Blackhawks morning links

Let’s see what the internet has in store today after the Blackhawks’ victory Wednesday.

— Full team wins are a good thing. The Athletic

— It’s all Glass, baby. Chicago Sun-Times

— Surviving the penalties. The Rink

— Who’s that goalie? The Athletic

— The best … around. NBC Sports Chicago

Check back in later today as the latest edition of Chicago Blackhawks Hot and Not hits the web, then come back Friday for more coverage ahead of the Vegas game.

Wholesale Columbus Blue Jackets Jersey

Carlsson, 20, has recorded one assist with the Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets have recalled defenseman Gabriel Carlsson from the Cleveland Monsters, Columbus’ American Hockey League affiliate, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today.

Carlsson, 20, has recorded 0-1-1 and two penalty minutes in 10 games with the Blue Jackets and has collected four penalty minutes in six contests with the Monsters this season. He has tallied 0-2-2 and two penalty minutes in 12 career regular season games since making his NHL debut at the end of the 2016-17 season. The Orebro, Sweden native has registered 0-1-1, six penalty minutes and an “even” plus/minus rating in nine career AHL games with Cleveland. He was Columbus’ second first round pick, 29th overall, in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Wholesale Dallas Stars Jersey

The Western Conference standings are beginning to get tighter and tighter. That’s intriguing news for the Dallas Stars, whose margin for error is shrinking as a result.

With 31 regular season games behind them, the Dallas Stars have a lot to look back and reflect on.

There have been some rocky lows, some thrilling highs, and some altogether confusing in-betweens through the first 38 percent of the season. But all of it combined together has made for a pretty interesting run.

It’s also helped craft an overall record of 17-13-1 for the Stars. That’s 35 points in 31 games, which is respectable. It may not be as high as Dallas Stars fans expected it to be at this point in the season, but it’s definitely better than the 12-13-6 mark that they held at this point in last season.

As the Stars continue to search for a consistent identity for their team, the standings are consistently fluctuating. And that is beginning to bring some interesting conversations to light, specifically for Dallas.

After the win against the New York Rangers on Monday night, the Dallas Stars improved to 35 points on the year. This win effectively wiped out a three-game losing skid and gave the Stars a much-needed boost. It also helped vault the Stars back into the playoff picture.

Just a little over a week ago, Dallas was four points out of third place in the Central Division. They had won five games in a row and looked like serious contenders. But after losing three straight, they were bumped from the postseason picture altogether.

That just goes to show how tight the standings are right now. And it looks as though they are only getting tighter, meaning the Stars have less and less room for error.

With Monday night’s win, Dallas jumped into the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. But it didn’t last long.

After a 2-1 shootout victory over the Calgary Flames tonight, the Minnesota Wild picked up their 34th and 35th points of the season. Considering they have done this in only 30 games, they took sole control of the first wild card spot and bumped Dallas to the second seed.

With St. Louis (32 games, 44 points), Winnipeg (31 games, 41 points), and Nashville (29 games, 30 points) all holding steady in the top three spots in the Central Division, the Stars are currently scrapping simply for a wild card spot. That’s becoming tougher and tougher, though, as more teams join the race and attempt to state their claim.

Here is a look at the standings as of Wednesday morning in the Western Conference wild card race.

WC1. Minnesota Wild 30 GP 35 PTS

WC2. Dallas Stars 31 GP 35 PTS

3. Chicago Blackhawks 31 GP 35 PTS

4. Calgary Flames 31 GP 35 PTS

5. Anaheim Ducks 31 GP 33 PTS

6. Vancouver Canucks 31 GP 32 PTS

As you can see, the race is rather airtight. Only three points separate the top six teams in the wild card standings.

That creates a decent amount of pressure for the teams currently at the front of the race (i.e. Minnesota and Dallas). The pressure is on to keep the intensity alive and continue producing at a high rate.

Chicago has won three in a row, Calgary is 2-0-2 in their last four games, and Anaheim has points in each of their past five games. The teams around the Stars are staying hot and starting to generate a push.

It’s going to be up to Dallas to push back and create a streak of their own. With it being December, there is still plenty of time left before we start watching the standings. But until then, they are helpful to keep around.

It’s still early in the year and there is plenty of time for teams to go one way or the other. But as it stands right now, the Dallas Stars are in for a real show over the next few games as they look to battle it out and keep themselves in the wild card running. Any one slip-up could be detrimental and pin the Stars in a hole that they then have to fight their way out of.

Getting buried in the standings took a toll on the Stars last season. Will it happen again this year? It’s all up to how the team plays, and that play continues tonight at 6:00 p.m. against the New York Islanders.

Wholesale Detroit Red Wings Jersey

Darren Helm (43) and the Red Wings played a complete game in Tuesday's victory over Winnipeg.The Detroit Red Wings took advantage of a lull in their schedule to practice making plays in tight spaces, and again focused on winning puck battles.

They don’t play again until Saturday when they host the St. Louis Blues, allowing for a 50-minute practice Wednesday that included small games emphasizing making plays. The mood was light after Tuesday’s 5-1 victory over Winnipeg ended a seven-game losing streak.

“It was huge for us to start good, that is what we have been focusing on,” Tomas Tatar said, after he’d done a reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” for team personnel. “It just feels way better when you lead. We had 16 shots after the first and they had three, and then we talked about it in the locker room, like hey, we have to continue to play some way, don’t let them get back on the horse.”

“We pressured them all night and just played really good hockey. We had maybe like 18 turnovers. The one in Montreal we had 43. So that is a huge difference. We just have to play the right way, play smart, and the system will take care of us. We just have to continue to be better every day.”

It speaks to how tight the NHL is that the Wings could go through a stretch where they banked just three of a possible 14 points and still remain within two points of third place in the Atlantic Division. It speaks to the Wings’ need to play as well as they did Tuesday, after the poor hockey that defined last week.

“It is a little bit mind-boggling sometimes when you look around this room and see how much talent we have,” Frans Nielsen said. “We find ways to beat ourselves. We can’t stop the bleeding when it’s going on for some reason. It was good to see us show up last night and play that way for almost 60 minutes.

“We just have to realize that was only one game. We have to learn from it and keep doing that. Something has happened lately when we got scored on, but I think we kept playing yesterday. That was another thing that was good to see, that it didn’t bother us too much that they got that goal. We felt good about our game and we just kept going.”

The first period against the Jets was as good a start as the Wings have had all season. It will be needed against the Blues, who, like the Jets, are one of the best teams in the NHL.

“We need to have the same start,” Anthony Mantha said. “We outshot them, we caused a couple penalties, so that is key. I think it came down to being simple — lots of shots on net, easy plays, just giving it to the open guy instead of forcing a play.”

Power play focus

Special teams will come under scrutiny at Friday’s practice. The Wings had two long 5-on-3s (totaling 2:59) and were 0-for-4 during 5-on-4s (5:41). “Our power play let us down,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “It let us down in Montreal in a 3-0 game that you could really change it and make it 3-1, instead it’s 4-0 because you give up a shortie. It’s been in the top 10 here in the last number of weeks. I like that both units seem to have competitiveness to them. I thought the first 5-on-3 was good, we had tons of good looks. The second was no good at all. We’ll work on it. For us to be a playoff team, we have to have both special teams unit probably in the top 10.”

Lineup math

The Wings went back to 12 forwards and six defensemen Tuesday, after experimenting with 11 and seven for several games. Blashill said the latter is “not easy for the defensemen. Sometimes they struggle to get in rhythm. Early when we did it we had success, and we didn’t have as much success later. I also thought, David Booth has played pretty good hockey for us in minimal minutes and putting him there allowed us to be a little bit more of a four-line team. Winnipeg’s top two lines are really good, but we felt we could win the four-line battle.”

Prospects note

The Wings’ first-round pick from 2016, Dennis Cholowski, was among the list of invitees to Team Canada’s world juniors camp. Defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo, a 2017 third-round pick, was invited to Team Finland’s camp.

Wholesale Edmonton Oilers Jersey

Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) makes the save against the Carolina Hurricanes during first period preseason NHL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Monday September 25, 2017.

The status of the Edmonton Oilers’ No. 1 goaltender is up in the air as the team gets set to host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Cam Talbot missed practice at Rogers Place on Wednesday.

“He tweaked something in his upper body,” Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said. “He’s getting looked at today. I’m not ruling him out for tomorrow, but if he can’t go tomorrow and doesn’t back-up, then we have to recall a goaltender.”

If the Oilers wind up bringing up a goalie from Bakersfield, then Anton Slepyshev or Jesse Puljujarvi would likely be assigned to the farm. They can both be sent down without having to be put on waivers.

The Oilers are going to need solid goaltending and defence against Toronto. The Maple Leafs boast the most potent offence in the NHL with a league-leading 92 goals. The Leafs’ resurgence should amp up the the showdown between two Canadian teams.

“Every game is exciting, but the atmosphere in the building is better. Our team seems to feed off that stuff,” Oilers winger Zack Kassian said. “It’s probably going to be emotional. Those are fun games to be in.”

Puljujarvi skated on a line with Connor McDavid and Milan Lucic at Tuesday’s practice.

With Talbot absent, Alberta Golden Bears goalie Kenny Cameron filled in at practice.

Wholesale Minnesota Wild Jersey

Minnesota Wild’s Jason Zucker (16), head coach Bruce Boudreau, top center, and Mikael Granlund (64), of Finland, watch as Marcus Foligno (17) takes the ice against the Dallas Stars during the third period of an NHL preseason hockey game Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in St. Paul, Minn.

After spending their entire careers with the Buffalo Sabres, both Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis were ecstatic to learn they were being traded to the Minnesota Wild this offseason.

They were tired of losing.

As a part of a massive rebuild with the Sabres, Foligno and Ennis were subjected to competing with substandard teams. It netted the Sabres a cornerstone piece in the form of star winger Jack Eichel, but the he process was hard for players to stomach.

“It was tough,” Foligno said. “We knew we were put in a spot where we didn’t have the best team, so we got trampled a lot of nights.”

“t’s great to be a part of a culture that’s determined to win a Stanley Cup this season,” Ennis said. “You know, Buffalo has been in kind of a rebuild process, and everyone knows they’ve had quite a few losses over the last few seasons, and that’s tough on everybody. … Everyone that plays competitive sports wants to win. It’s definitely nice to be here, where losing is not an option.”

Foligno and Ennis came to the Wild in a June 30 trade that sent Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella to the Sabres. It remains to be seen which team actually won the trade, though Wednesday’s game at the KeyBank Center should provide a good snapshot, as it marks the first time both teams have played each other since the move.

“I’m sure they’re going to be pumped up tomorrow night,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We will put them in the best spots available.”

Boudreau said he’s been pleased with the way Foligno and Ennis have adapted to a winning culture. While neither player has stuffed the stat sheet — Foligno has seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 19 games; Ennis has five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in 20 games — they are finding niches with each passing game.

“Learning in a hurry that losing is really not accepted,” Boudreau said. “You can’t make positives out of losing. The only way to have fun is to win. Nothing else matters. The sacrifices guys have to make, whether it’s in practice or the game, are probably something that Marcus and Tyler haven’t been used to.”

Foligno said it hasn’t been easy jumping into a winning culture.

“It’s been challenging for us,” Foligno said. “You have to develop better habits, and that takes a while to learn. That was the biggest difference. It’s been great to be in this winning culture, where losing is not acceptable and a lot is expected out of us.”

Foligno added that he likes the way that everyone in the locker room holds each other accountable.

“It’s not like we have guys yelling at each other or anything like that,” he said. “You just have guys letting other guys know that they have to make a better play next time. … It goes all the way from the leadership down to the rookies. That makes the team better.”

Listening to the way Foligno and Ennis talk about being members of the Wild, it’s clear that the struggles with the Sabres have made both hungrier. Ennis was in Buffalo for eight seasons, Foligno for six.

“I still haven’t played in the playoffs,” Foligno said. “It’s been tough every summer to have to go back home early and watch (older brother) Nick play a couple times in the playoffs and see his success. Just in general to see a Stanley Cup get hoisted every season and me not being the person that’s doing it is tough. That is something that’s fueled me and something I want to bring here to the Wild.”

Wholesale Los Angeles Kings Jersey

LA blows an early two-goal lead after taking their foot off the gas.

Okay, I’ll recap the first ten minutes for you very quickly. On the first shift of Tuesday night’s hockey game, the Los Angeles Kings scored. LA forced a turnover, Tanner Pearson took a shot that had no right to beat Anders Nilsson but somehow did, and it was 1-0. A couple minutes later, as a power play wound down, Anze Kopitar found acres of space in front of Nilsson, and Dustin Brown found him with a pass to make it 2-0.

That was not the story by the time the game ended. Vancouver had come all the way back to win a 3-2 decision, and even though the Kings ended up ahead on scoring chances and shot attempts, it could not have felt more like the Kings had been overrun by a team everyone assumed was inferior.

Why is that? The early goals didn’t help, as the game flow from Natural Stat Trick shows. When it came to 5v5 play, Vancouver was only on top after falling behind by 2, while LA was only on top after the Canucks took the lead in the third period.

This is a bit misleading because the Kings got a whole lot of pressure out of their power play, firing 11 shots on Nilsson. Kopitar’s goal came after three other shots on the PP, and with a 7-0 shots advantage, it truly did feel like LA was dominating even though they hadn’t done the hard work at even strength. By the time LA needed to do that, though, they were fending off a Vancouver team that didn’t have much more to lose. They turtled, allowing the Canucks the next seven shots on goal and 19 of the next 23. The 19th shot was a game-tying goal for Bo Horvat, who established inside position on Jake Muzzin and tucked a rebound past Jonathan Quick. While the first goal, a Henrik Sedin that bested Quick by way of Nick Shore’s rear end, was fluky, the second was a culmination of Vancouver’s pressure. It came at the exact midpoint of the game.

The problem was that, even with no lead to protect, LA failed to get back on top. They got a few shots on net and Vancouver didn’t pepper Quick from that point on, but the remainder of the second saw LA in their own end. The Kings yielded a penalty shot to Brandon Sutter — admittedly on a soft call — and even though Quick saved it, the Kings had to be pleased when a late too-many-men call ensured they would get to the third with a tie score.

The Kings looked great in the third. It was too late. They had left themselves with no wiggle room, and when debutante Andrew Crescenzi took a high-sticking penalty on Derek Dorsett, Sven Baertschi capitalized after a nifty bit of passing.

It was not a great showing for Crescenzi or linemates Brook Laich and Michael Amadio, as the Kings attempted zero shots on goal with those three out there, but blaming them for the loss would be foolish given how sloppy the team looked. If great chances for Alec Martinez (tipped by Nilsson onto the crossbar) and Adrian Kempe (into Nilsson’s chest at point-blank range) had gone in we might again be focusing on LA’s resilience, but instead we have to contend with the turnovers and failed clearances that resulted in the Vancouver Canucks cycling against the Kings time and time again.

LA has lost three in a row, and though they looked a lot worse against Tampa Bay, this one feels more concerning. The Lightning and the Sharks are very good teams, and the Canucks just haven’t been on their level. The next two matchups are friendly, though. A Brad Marchand-less Boston plays on night 2 of a back-to-back, and the very beatable Florida Panthers follow. The Kings can turn this homestand into a minor hiccup, but they’ll need to clean things up today at practice.