Shocker at Staples

My passion for the Washington Capitals is well documented. What you don’t know is that I was actually a Los Angeles Kings fan before I was a Capitals fan.

I wasn’t into hockey growing up, but I caught hockey fever when I was going to college in southern California. That was the Gretzky era  – he led them to the Stanley Cup finals the year after I graduated from USC – and the Kings were the hottest ticket in town. But that era faded with the 1994 lockout, bankruptcy, trading Gretzky to the Blues in 1996 and missing the playoffs four years in a row. But unlike most of my then-fellow Angelenos, I stayed on the Kings bandwagon.

In 1998, the Kings finally made it back to the playoffs, facing the St. Louis Blues (Gretzky had moved on to the Rangers by then). The Kings had lost the first two games in St. Louis, but held a 3-0 lead in the 3rd period of Game #3. Then this happened:

In a game that will be talked about for years to come, the Kings saw a 3-0 lead wiped out by four St. Louis power-play goals within a 3:07 span after defenseman Sean O’Donnell received a fighting major for beating down the Blues’ Geoff Courtnall, who had knocked down goaltender Jamie Storr.

Pascal Rheaume, Brett Hull and Pierre Turgeon scored goals to tie the score and then Terry Yake knocked in the game-winner as the Blues rallied for a 4-3 victory Monday night to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series before a sellout crowd of 16,005 at the Great Western Forum.

Meltdown on Manchester
Los Angeles Times, April 28 1998

I was one of those 16,005. It was the ugliest feeling I have ever had walking out of a hockey game.

I imagine the fans at the Staples Center last night are familiar with it.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” defenseman Matt Greene said after the Kings squandered a 4-0 lead and gave up a season-high five goals in the second period.

San Jose winger Devin Setoguchi finished off a three-on-two break with a deadly wrist shot past Jonathan Quick 3 minutes and 9 seconds into sudden-death play, stunning a Staples Center crowd that had been taken for a long and wild ride all night. What seemed like a chance for the Kings to take control of the series instead became a potentially devastating defeat that left the Sharks leading the first-round series two games to one with Game 4 scheduled for Staples Center on Thursday.

Kings turn four-goal lead into 6-5 overtime loss to Sharks in Game 3 
Los Angeles Times, April 20 2011

I watched the 2nd period last night at first with jubilation (Kings go up 4-0 less than a minute into the period), then slight concern (Sharks finally get on the board), then increasing concern (Sharks close the game to 4-3), then relief (Kings score :15 seconds later to make it 5-3) and finally horror (Sharks score twice in the last :90 seconds to tie the game 5-5).

I couldn’t watch any more after that. I saw that it had gone to overtime, but I didn’t know who won until I looked it up online this morning.

Frozen Royalty calls it the “Flop on Figueroa”. Purple Crushed Velvet has a broken heart. Hockeywood calls it an “epic meltdown” but then suggests Kings fans need to “Keep Calm and Carry On” because “One game a playoff series does not make”.

Technically, that’s true – the Kings are only down 2-1 and have shown they can win in San Jose. But with momentum shift of blowing a 4 goal lead, I don’t see how the Kings win this series. I’d like to be wrong, but I don’t see how they win another game this year, much less the series.

Comments:

Yeah, I can only imagine how brutal it was to watch that game. The Pens had a brutal game or two this year, but that was during the regular season. Penner has been a major disappointment (maybe even worst than Ponikarovsky was for the Pens last year.