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Kings' rookies falter in third, fall to Coyotes' rookies, 8-7

September 14, 2011 | 11:28 pm

Kings5It was only the first rookie game for the Kings, played before a few hundred avid fans at the Toyota Sports Center, but right wing Brandon Kozun was irate after the Kings’ prospects squandered a three-goal lead Wednesday and lost to the Phoenix Coyotes’ prospects, 8-7, in El Segundo.

The Kings had built a 6-3 lead through two periods, led by two goals each from Kozun and Andy Andreoff, their third-round pick and 80th overall in the June draft. But the Coyotes scored five straight goals in the third after goaltender Christopher Gibson replaced starter Martin Jones and they held on to win a rugged game.

For Kozun, who served as an alternate captain, the collapse was exasperating.

“That’s definitely not what we designed it to be. That’s unacceptable,” said Kozun, who also had an assist on the Kings’ final goal, by Ray Kaunisto. “We cannot let leads like that get away.

“Hopefully we learned from it. You’ve got to make mistakes to get better.”

Kozun, a Los Angeles native who grew up in Calgary and has dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship, is poised to challenge for a spot on the Kings this season. He had 32 goals and 107 points in his final junior season with Calgary of the Western Hockey League in 2009-10 and scored 23 goals and 48 points in 73 games with Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League last season.

He’s small — he’s listed at 5 feet 8 and 156 pounds — but he’s feisty and he has taken the responsibility of being a leader in rookie camp and games.

“I think it was just a lapse of focus and that can never happen,” he said of the third-period misfortunes. “There was a lot of nervous guys in that dressing room and maybe that had a little bit to do with it as well. It’s unacceptable. They don’t accept that with the L.A. Kings and we’re going to try and erase that and make sure it never happens again.

“Being a guy who’s been here a couple of times and knows what it’s like, you try to help the younger guys who have been here only once or never. You try and tell them what it’s going to be like, but at the end of the day it’s a whole different ballgame when you get on the ice.”

Each team scored a short-handed goal, but Phoenix converted three power-play chances in the third period and set up around the net without resistance. Each team also had 41 penalty minutes in a game that became progressively more chippy. The Kings' other two goals were scored by Jordan Weal, in the first period, and Robbie Czarnik, an unassisted short-handed goal early in the second period.

The teams will meet again at the Toyota Sports Center on Thursday at 2 p.m.


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-- Helene Elliott