All of this must seem familiar to the Kings, and not in a good way.
One-goal losses. Strong opposing goaltenders. Lack of power-play success at critical times. Unfortunately for the Kings, all those factors converged against Monday night, and it led to a 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks before 17,821 at STAPLES Center.
Less than one month ago, the Kings were in first place in the Western Conference. If Detroit, which is in ninth place in the Western Conference, gets at least one point Tuesday against the New York Islanders, the Kings will be out of the top eight.
The Kings’ season-long seven-game homestand, considered a huge opportunity to solidify a playoff spot, is now off to an 0-3 start. The Kings are 3-7 in their last 10 games.
``Sometimes you go through hell,’’ coach Terry Murray said. ``You've just got to keep going and come out the other side. This is where it's at right now. We'll get our scoring going and find a win to win some games.’’
At one point this season, the Kings had a 12-1-3 record in one-goal games. Now, they’re 1-7 in their last eight one-goal games. Obviously, every goal makes a big difference, and the Kings simply haven’t had enough scoring.
In six of their last eight losses, the Kings have scored two or fewer goals. A second goal Monday would have been huge, and the Kings had a fantastic opportunity to get it, early in the third period, but couldn’t capitalize.
Just over six minutes into the third period, San Jose’s Douglas Murray got called for clearing the puck over the glass, which gave the Kings a 5-on-3 two-man advantage. The Kings buzzed around the net but couldn’t beat Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
The Kings had 16 power-play shots in the game, but went 0-for-5 on the power play. The Kings are now 2 for 15 with a two-man advantage this season.
``We had a couple power plays, and we generated chances, but I guess the finish is missing,’’ Kings center Anze Kopitar said. ``I think, if we keep going like that and creating chances, I think the bounces are going to come too. I'm pretty confident that we'll score some more goals in the future now.’’
The Kings didn’t offer much support to their goalie, Erik Ersberg, who made only his fifth start of the season and played well, with 32 saves, but took the loss. Nabokov was even better, and finished with 33 saves.
``We were scoring a lot at the beginning of the year,’’ Kings captain Dustin Brown said, ``and I think teams, they go through that as a collective group. Sometimes it comes easy and you find the back of the net every game. It seems, as of late, it has been really tough for us to find that, even if we are getting the chances. We've got to try and stay positive. It does not do any good to be negative at this point of the year.’’
The Kings, who had taken seven out of a possible eight points in their first four games against the Sharks this season, were unable to recapture that magic, but they at least earned the satisfaction of their coach, who had not been pleased a day earlier.
Coming off the Kings’ mostly lackluster loss to St. Louis on Saturday, Murray made wholesale line changes and held two hours’ worth of player meetings on Sunday.
Murray said was pleased with his team’s effort. Dan Boyle gave San Jose the lead 3:54 into the first period, but otherwise the game was fairly even.
Dany Heatley made it 2-0 Sharks with a second-period power-play goal, and Randy Jones pulled the Kings within 2-1 just 37 seconds after Heatley’s goal.
``I liked the effort here tonight,’’ Murray said. ``I liked the compete. I liked the scoring opportunities that were generated. There were a lot of them. We've got to get our scoring going. We've lost seven of our last 10, and every one have been one-goal games.
``We've got to score. We had our opportunity on the power play, on the 5 on 3. We had a couple great looks there. It was real good, moving the puck around. Again, we're just coming up dry in the special-team area and 5-on-5. But I liked the effort, the attitude, the compete, doing the right things. We've just got to find a way to score.’’
The Sharks took the lead 3:54 into the third period. Boyle shot from the right side, just inside the blue line and through traffic, and the puck appeared to deflect off the stick of Kings defenseman Sean O'Donnell and past Ersberg.
The Sharks took a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal 4:40 into the second period. Joe Thornton held the puck near the right boards and dropped it low to Heatley, who took two whacks at the puck and scored.
The two-goal lead didn't last though, as the Kings scored 37 seconds later. Alexander Frolov shot from the slot, and Nabokov made the save but the rebound kicked wide left. Jones was there for the shot and the goal at the 5:17 mark.
``I think we played better tonight,’’ Brown said, ``but if we stick with that game plan that we had tonight, obviously we need a better result. It is all about results right now. That was a hell of a lot better than the St. Louis game, and we have to build on that.
``That is a good team, and they had a couple of chances that they capitalized on, and we had some good chances and missed. That is the difference when you play a good team late in the season, and that is something we need to build on.’’
LAKings.com's NOTES Alexander Frolov played in his 500th game in the NHL/as a King. He is the 17th player in Kings history to play in 500 games...Anze Kopitar has five points in the last five games (2-3=5).
...Erik Ersberg’s career high for saves in one game is 40 (March 6, 2008: 4-0 win vs. Ottawa). He had 34 saves tonight on 36 shots.
...This was Ersberg’s first start at home since March 16, 2009 vs. Nashville.
...The Kings out-hit San Jose 44-25 tonight.
...Matt Greene’s streak of 160 games was snapped tonight (streak started Jan. 20, 2008).
...Anze Kopitar is now one point behind Tommy Williams for 22nd overall in Kings history.
1 - 0 SJS
2 - 0 SJS
2 - 1 SJS