Suddenly, playoff positioning might not seem quite as important to the Kings. With every passing day, the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference looks better and better.
In another disappointing effort against a quality opponent, the Kings accomplished almost nothing over the final two periods on Thursday night and suffered a 3-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks before a sellout crowd at STAPLES Center.
Troy Brouwer scored a second-period goal and Tomas Kopecky scored twice in the third period as the Blackhawks improved to 3-0-1 against the Kings this season.
``There was not much good out of that one there tonight,’’ coach Terry Murray said.
In the short term, the loss had few ramifications. With 13 games remaining in the season, the Kings remain in sixth place in the West, six points clear of ninth-place Calgary with two games in hand over the Flames.
The loss, however, is the latest in a grim post-Olympic trend. The Kings are now 3-4-1 since the Olympic break ended two-plus weeks ago, and the victories have come over Dallas and Columbus, two teams fairly far out of the playoff picture in the West.
There’s no need for panic just yet, but the Kings are just one point out of seventh place and only five points ahead of eighth-place Detroit.
``I think it is important for this team, at this time of year, to hit the reset button and come back to work tomorrow. We need to be a lot better in practice tomorrow, and get back to basics,’’ captain Dustin Brown said. ``I think we need to take a look in the mirror, individually and collectively. We all know we have a good team in here and we have shown that this year. We cannot sit here and say we need to be more intense. We need to go out there and do it.
``That is a matter of taking responsibility, and that is something we will take care of internally. We cannot think of the slide we have been on, or how we have been playing lately. It is all about playing the next game, especially where we are at in the standings. This time of year, we cannot dwell on how we have been playing. We have to focus on how we have to play.’’
The Kings continued their surprising mediocre play at home. The Kings have only 41 points at home this season, more than only three other Western Conference teams.
The Kings were also shut out for just the second time this season, following a dismal 7-0 road loss to the Atlanta Thrashers on Nov. 13. After the game, the locker room was quiet, with several players talking of better practice habits and a ``reset’’ of the season.
``There's no frustration,’’ said goalie Jonathan Quick, who made 34 saves. ``We're still in a playoff spot. We still have 13 games left. We still have a couple games in hand against the guys around us. You can't get frustrated. The past two performances, you could say `disappointed.' We were a little disappointed in the way we played.
But at the end of the day ... you've got to bear down. We need a good practice tomorrow, to do all the little things correctly, and then we've got to carry that over against the Islanders on Saturday.’’
The Kings kept Quick in goal to face Antti Niemi, who helped beat the Kings 3-2 in overtime last week. Niemi was tested even less in Los Angeles.
Shots were 11-6 in favor of Chicago in the scoreless first period, and while the Kings had to kill six minutes' worth of penalties -- Justin Williams had a double-minor high-sticking penalty early -- they otherwise carried play for most of the period.
``I thought the penalty kill -- obviously, with the four-minute minor and then to come back and kill another one, six minutes in the first period -- was really good,’’ Murray said, ``and that should have energized us, and it didn't. After that, there's not much we can draw and take, as far as positives. There's a lot of things that we need to address, and attitude is maybe the biggest one.
The Blackhawks outshot the Kings 9-0 in the first eight-plus minutes of the second period, and took the lead with 8:24 remaining in the period. Patrick Kane took the puck to the net, and Quick made the stop but was unable to cover it and the Kings were unable to clear. After a scramble in front, Brouwer found the loose puck and beat Quick.
``Tonight, in the end it is my fault,’’ Brown said. ``I turned the puck over twice on one shift, and it led to a goal. That kind of set the tone for the rest of the game. I think ultimately everyone could be better here. If I make a smarter, better play there we are going to the third period tied 0-0. Maybe we would have had that jump in the third period.’’
The Kings didn't record their first shot on goal of the second period -- listed as a 67-foot wrist shot by Matt Greene -- until 12:36 into the second period, so the Kings went 16 minutes, 39 seconds between shots in the first and second periods. Chicago outshot the Kings 13-3 in the second period.
In search of a spark to start the second period, the Kings instead found a two-goal deficit. Kopecky shot from the far side of the left faceoff circle and beat Quick cleanly with a wrist shot 2:48 into the third period.
The Blackhawks took a 3-0 lead 6:08 into the third period, after another goal-mouth scramble in which they were unable to clear or cover the puck. This time, it was Kopecky again, with the unassisted goal.
The Kings finished with 17 shots on goal, eight of them coming in the third period. The Kings' low this season was 16 shots, in a Dec. 7 victory over Calgary.
``I just think it's just a lack of execution right now,’’ alternate captain Matt Greene said. ``I think we're not completing passes, we're getting away from our game plan and we're just not doing the things that brought us success from the beginning of the year, in the early part of the year. It's been identified, and guys know what we've got to do, so it's just basically a matter of doing it now and realizing there is an issue there and fixing it.’’
The Kings have now killed 20 straight penalties, dating back to the second period March 4 at Nashville...The Kings are 45-50 on the penalty kill the last 15 games (90 percent) and 29-31 the last nine games (93.5 percent)... The last time the Kings didn’t have a power play chance in a game was April 7, 2009 at Edmonton...The Kings had 17 shots tonight (season low is 16 Dec. 7 vs. Calgary)... The last time the Kings were shutout at home was Feb. 12, 2009 (2-0 loss to Calgary)...Jarret Stoll had nine hits tonight
...Rob Scuderi had five blocked shots tonight
...Anze Kopitar was 9-12 in the faceoff circle
...The loss snapped the Kings three-game home winning streak vs. Chicago (now 7-1-3 in last 11 at home vs. the Hawks)
1 - 0 CHI
2 - 0 CHI
3 - 0 CHI
Hi stick - double minor