| • Game Highlights
• Photo Gallery
• Kings Insider
Just when the Kings got a handle on one problem, another one popped up.
The porous defense from the previous two games tightened up considerably, but that didn't translate to anything productive on the offensive end, as the Kings were shut out for the second time this season in a 1-0 loss to San Jose before 18,118 at STAPLES Center.
The Kings dropped their third consecutive game, and moral victories don't count for much in the ultra-tight Western Conference, where the Kings -- who fell to sixth place with the loss -- are only two points ahead of ninth-place Nashville, and have been missing opportunities for points of late.
In a game that legitimately could have gone either way, a game featuring two ice-weary teams -- the Kings were playing for the fifth time in seven days, the Sharks for the third in four days -- Devin Setoguchi's second-period goal held up as the game-winner.
``We had our chances,'' Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ``We just didn't bury them. The effort was there and the D played well. We gave up one goal, and I think it was actually a 3-on-3. That's what games are going to be like now.
``In the second half of the year, every game is going to be tight-checking. It's about the little decisions we made. We just have to build on that. That's not the result we wanted, that's for sure, but we outplayed them, I thought, for two periods.''
After the Kings allowed a total of 13 goals in their previous two games, the microscope was rightfully on the defense, which had been a team strength for most of the season.
Defense held up fine. Until late in the second period, the Sharks' only real scoring chances came on a lengthy 5-on-3 power play and on a breakaway. The only tally came on Setoguchi's long-range wrist shot with 1:06 left in the second period.
Offense? The Kings cycled the puck well and put themselves in scoring-chance situations often, but didn't seem to have enough pressure directly in front of the net. Sharks goalie Antti Niemi made 29 saves for his second shutout of the season.
``I think we had a lot of offensive-zone time; we just couldn’t bury our chances,'' Kings center Anze Kopitar said. ``I had a few chances, Brownie [Dustin Brown] had a few chances, but its one of those games where he (Niemi) was on and seeing most of the puck.
``Maybe we didn’t have as much of a net presence as we wanted to, but we have to get back to the good things that make us successful, scoring goals and, at the same time, being good on D.''
After a rough outing Wednesday in Phoenix, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick returned to the net and did a credible job with 18 saves. The Kings had been 19-2-0 this season, before Saturday, when they allowed two or fewer goals in a game.
For a while, the game had a similar feel to the teams' meeting in San Jose five days earlier, which was scoreless until the Kings scored four fourth-period goals. This time, though, the Kings couldn't manage the same breakthrough against goalie Antti Niemi.
The Kings outshot the Sharks 29-19 but went 0-for-3 on the power play. San Jose passed the Kings for fourth place in the conference and second in the Pacific Division.
Next up is a Monday home game against Chicago, a team that is 3-0 against the Kings this season, so things don't get easier as the KIngs approach the season's midpoint. The Kings played well enough to win, but got nothing other than perhaps some momentum.
``It was a good game,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``That was a very good game. That was a solid effort by both teams. Both teams have been playing a lot. They’re coming off three in four (night) and that’s five in seven for us. That was intense, that was compete, and there was lots of good plays happening.”
The teams played a scoreless first period, and the Kings did relatively well to get out of the first period in a 0-0 game. The Kings played well early, but Brown took an offensive-zone holding penalty at the 10:03 mark and then, three seconds later, Drew Doughty was called for a delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass.
That gave the Sharks a 5-on-3 power play for 1:57. The Sharks had been 7-for-21 on the power play in their previous three games, but San Jose didn't score and generated two shots on goal.
During the penalty kill, Murray called timeout to rest his players and to stay with them.
``We wanted to stay with the same two defensemen, Greene and Scuderi,'' Murray said. ``They are the two veteran guys that are big bodies and can block a lot of shots. About halfway through the penalty kill, they did an outstanding job. We got to switch up Zeus and Kopitar, but the two defenseman, we wanted to stay with it.''
San Jose nearly scored early in the second period, when Kent Huskins came out of the penalty box after a penalty and had a breakaway, but Quick made the save.
The Sharks broke the scoreless tie on just their 11th shot on goal of the game, with 1:06 remaining in the second period. Setoguchi cut to the middle of the ice and, with a couple bodies between himself and net, fired a long-range wrist shot past Quick to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead.
``We don't get the puck deep,'' Murray said. ``That's all it is. We just don't get the puck deep. It's off a simple faceoff win, at the offside dot at the offensive blue line. That's a play where they have five guys over the top of you. That puck has got to get it hard. We turn it over, they counter right back and now our gap is too big.''
From there, the teams played a scoreless third period, in which the Sharks maintained a defense-first attitude but still managed to keep the shot total even at 8-8.
``When you take a look at the end of two periods, we're basically doing a lot of good things,'' Murray said. ``Our shot count is up, we have a lot of really good scoring chances. I thought, in the offensive zone, that we were not creating enough traffic at their net.
``(Niemi) saw a lot of pucks that were coming from up top. He's a good goaltender, and he's going to be a better goaltender if you don't create a lot of havoc and get in his face on a consistent basis. I thought we were just inconsistent in that area. In the third period, once they scored with a minute and a half left in the second period, it's an easy game for them, actually, to play five back, which they did. Now we have to battle and try to find a way, and we just couldn't do it.''