After their mostly sluggish 5-2 loss to Calgary, in front of 16,336 at Staples Center on Saturday afternoon, the Kings had played 24 games in 50 days, the second-most grueling schedule in the NHL this season behind San Jose (25 games).
The sharp, inspired play that that carried the Kings to a 10-4-2 start has often given way to mental errors, the type that gave the Flames several chances to take control Saturday as the Kings fell to 3-5 in their last eight games.
On Saturday, the Kings allowed a goal 13 seconds into the game. They took five minor penalties in the game’s first 27 minutes. They allowed a shorthanded goal. They, after a strong second period, in which they took a 2-1 lead, were outshot 13-5 in the third period.
``We’ve played a lot, traveled a lot, been to the East Coast a couple times, so it’s going to take a toll,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``I say that, but that’s the way it is. That’s the way it is. You’ve got to deal with that part of the game, play intelligently and manage the puck properly. The travel, and the number of games you play, really has nothing to do with turning the puck over in the middle of the ice.’’
Perhaps not, but mental fatigue can lead to physical errors, and the Kings made many of those on an afternoon in which Calgary’s Jarome Iginla recorded his ninth career hat trick and the Kings missed an opportunity to build on some strong second-period play.
The Kings were outshot 32-25, allowed two power-play goals on seven chances and did not score on three power plays (but did allow a shorthanded goal). Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 27 saves but has allowed at least three goals in six of his last seven games.
``Throughout the game,’’ Kings captain Dustin Brown said, ``especially on the offensive side, I mean I think we had 25 shots maybe, but not too many good scoring chances. That's a result of players not playing hard enough, for one, and not playing together.’’
The Kings took a 2-1 lead early in the second period on goals, 38 seconds apart, by Drew Doughty and Alexander Frolov, but that’s when special teams started to doom the Kings.
Iginla’s second goal, on the power play, tied the game less than three minutes after the Kings took the lead. Daymond Langkow’s shorthanded goal, 7:22 into the third period, was the back-breaker and the Flames scored twice more in the third period.
``We didn't have a lot of energy,’’ Brown said. ``It's irrelevant why we didn't have it. We need to bring energy, especially in critical games.’’
If the Kings are counting on a break in the schedule to help them regain their wind, it’s not going to happen soon. The compacted schedule, due to the Olympics, doesn’t help, and the Kings will play 13 games in 23 days starting Wednesday at Edmonton.
``We’ve got to figure this out now,’’ said Anze Kopitar, who assisted on Frolov’s goal. ``We’ve dropped two in a row now. We’re going to have a couple days of practice now. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and get the job done.’’
The Flames improved their road record to 7-1-2 and rebounded from a dreadful 7-1 road loss to Chicago on Thursday, after which coach Brent Sutter called his team's attitude too ``casual'' and questioned whether the Flames were playing with much emotion.
It took exactly 13 seconds for the Flames to take a lead. Iginla skated in and, marked by Sean O'Donnell just inside the blue line, ripped a wrist shot that deflected slightly off O'Donnell's foot and beat Quick low and to the far post.
After the disaster on the Iginla goal, the Kings didn't play a bad first period, but they also didn't establish much offensive pressure.
The Kings did a good job cleaning up two consecutive Calgary power plays, but on their only power-play chance of the period, the Kings couldn't even establish control of the puck in the first 60 seconds.
The Kings took the lead with two quick goals. The first was the type of ``shot mentality'' goal that Murray enjoys. O'Donnell passed across to Doughty, whose rising slap shot from the right side beat Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff at the 3:22 mark.
Then, 38 seconds later, another long-range shot by Doughty generated a rebound in front. Frolov picked up the puck in front, steadied it, then worked the rebound around Kiprusoff exactly four minutes into the period. The Flames called a timeout after the Kings' second goal.
Calgary tied the game less than three minutes later, just 17 seconds into a 35-second 5-on-3 advantage. Iginla scored his second goal of the game on a sharp wrist shot from the left side, after a pass from Jay Bouwmeester at the 6:51 mark.
After four consecutive Calgary power plays, the Kings got one, and gave up a shorthanded goal.
After a turnover deep in their own zone, the Kings allowed the Flames to cycle the puck while shorthanded, and Curtis Glencross' pass out of the corner found Langkow in front. With both Kings defensemen in the corner, Langkow easily beat Quick 7:22 into the third period for a 3-2 Calgary lead.
Iginla got the hat trick with 4:07 remaining in the third period. A shot from Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano was blocked in front but Iginla, from the right circle, put a perfect shot on net for his third goal.
``We got the two goals and there was good energy, jump,’’ Murray said. ``We had the right attitude of getting pucks in deep and getting on the forecheck. We were coming up with them. But as we started the game, (the energy was) not quite good enough, and then after that shorthanded goal, the energy seemed to dissipate pretty quickly there.
``Overall, we need to be better. There needs to be more of the type of game that we were showing in the first part of the year, lots of team energy, jump, good plays, top guys were doing the right stuff out there. We’re getting away from making right decisions with pucks right now. That’s a concern for me.’’
David Moss capped the scoring with a power-play goal with 46 seconds remaining. Perhaps befitting the afternoon’s frustration, Murray was called for unsportsmanlike conduct (a bench minor) for delay of game, after arguing that he hadn’t been allowed to get the final line change before a faceoff.
LAKings.com's NOTES Drew Doughty (1-1=2 today) now has six goals this season. He had six all of last season (tied for club lead among defensemen with Jack Johnson)...Doughty has 14 points in the last 15 games (4-10=12)...Anze Kopitar has 33 points this season. He got his 33rd point in his 42nd game last season (Jan. 12, 2009)...The Kings allowed a goal 13 seconds into the game. The club record for fastest goal allowed to start a game is eight seconds (Nov. 7, 1998 vs. Dallas)...Jarret Stoll was 10-for-16 on faceoffs today (62.5 percent). He is 57-for-95 on faceoffs in the last six games (60 percent)...Today was the first time in the last six games the Kings failed to register at least 30 shots..."Scene" in the crowd were 90210's Anna Lynn McCord and actor Cuba Gooding Jr.