ANAHEIM – The Kings, to be reasonably certain, were not going to finish the regular season with a 33-game winning streak. A loss, at some point soon, was inevitable.
The Kings had quite a ride, a record-setting ride, one that might end up propelling them to the playoffs. But the mistakes and lapses that the Kings managed to overcome during their franchise record nine-game winning streak finally caught up to them Monday night.
Bad penalties, defensive lapses and a soft goal added up to a long night for the Kings, who led early but then allowed three consecutive goals and had their streak snapped in a 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in front of 16,033 at Honda Center.
During the winning streak, which started on Jan. 21, the Kings went from being a team clinging to a playoff spot to one that is now in reasonably solid position. They got balanced scoring, strong goaltending and often showed an ability to overcome adversity.
``It was a nice run, a very nice run,’’ coach Terry Murray said. ``Guys really dug in, through some very hard games, a long road trip, come from behind, a lot of playing hard for each other, a lot of perseverance through some difficult games there. To find a way to stretch the streak to nine was tremendous. Tonight, we rallied in the third period, but Anaheim brought their `A' game here today and we didn't match it.’’
The Kings lost their winning streak, and their hold on fourth place in the Western Conference – they’re now two points behind Phoenix, and three points ahead of sixth-place Colorado – on Monday night largely because lapses caught up with them.
Even when they were winning, the Kings were grimacing a bit. They needed to rally from a three-goal deficit to beat Detroit on Saturday. Two days earlier, they let a three-goal lead vanish but scored two late goals to beat the Ducks. They had no such luck Monday.
Oscar Moller’s first-period goal gave the Kings a 1-0 lead, but the Ducks scored three consecutive goals (two on the power play) to take a 3-1 second-period lead. Anze Kopitar’s goal made it 3-2 late in the second period, but the Ducks scored 24 seconds later and held on during a third period in which the Kings had an 18-7 edge in shots.
``I guess we're pretty happy with those nine wins in a row,’’ Drew Doughty said, ``but I know tonight we were a little disappointed that we didn't play very well in the first two periods there. We came to play in the third and we took it to them. We've just to learn from that, and learn that we have to play every period like we did in the third.’’
Each team went with its No. 1 goalie, as the Kings' Jonathan Quick (29 saves) faced the Ducks' Jonas Hiller (35 saves).
Quick kept the game scoreless in the first 10 minutes as the Kings had another slow start, but the Kings took the lead with 7:19 remaining in the first period.
Alexander Frolov had the puck in the right circle and tried to spin and shoot. The puck rolled off his stick, but Moller, in front of the net, took a backhand swipe at it and pushed it past Hiller.
The Ducks tied the game with a 5-on-3 goal with 1:30 remaining in the period, after Matt Greene took a delay-of-game penalty and the Kings took a too many men on the ice penalty. After a scramble in front of the Kings' net, Teemu Selanne knocked in the puck from the side of the net.
A behind-the-net breakdown cost the Kings as the Ducks took the lead 3:27 into the second period. With the puck behind the Kings' net, both Davis Drewiske and Moller went to play it. Corey Perry beat both to the puck, and sent a quick centering pass to Ryan Getzlaf, who shot and scored from close range.
The Ducks extended their lead to 3-1 with a power-play goal 6:24 into the second period. Selanne shot from the far edge of the left faceoff circle. Saku Koivu had position on Jarret Stoll in front of the Kings' net and tucked the puck past Quick.
A goal with 1:04 remaining in the second period allowed the Kings to pull within one goal. At the end of a power play, Anze Kopitar executed a give-and-go play with Ryan Smyth. Kopitar passed, then went to the net and one-timed a shot past Hiller.
The Ducks got their two-goal lead back just 24 seconds later. Perry carried the puck into the Kings' zone, skated a little wide of Sean O'Donnell to create space, then sent a wrist shot to the far post that cleanly beat Quick with 1:30 remaining.
``That was one of those games where Anaheim had a lot of energy and a lot of emotion,’’ Kopitar said. ``We fell a little short. I thought the nine-game winning streak was good, but now we've got to look at this game and learn something from it and get a new one again.’’
It was a rough night all around for the Kings. Rob Scuderi, suffering from flu-like symptoms, left the game in the second period. Smyth had to leave the game for part of the first period after being hit by a shot from Doughty.
``Smyth is OK,’’ Murray said. ``He came back. That's just a shot that you take playing in front of the net. Scuderi, he got hit by the flu. We'll have a couple of days now before we play again, so that's a good thing. He can hopefully regroup real fast.’’
The Ducks tied a franchise record with their 10th consecutive home victory but lost Getzlaf to an ankle injury in the second period.
1 - 0 LAK
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 ANA
3 - 1 ANA
3 - 2 ANA
4 - 2 ANA
Delaying Game - Puck over glass
Too many men on the ice