MONTREAL -- Seven days, four cities, two points. Those aren't the numbers the Kings hoped for when they left Los Angeles for their East Coast road trip, but things did not go as planned. At all.
A lone win over Boston, sandwiched between frustrating losses to Buffalo and Ottawa, led the Kings to Montreal on Wednesday, with hopes that they could at least salvage a .500 record on the trip, but the Canadiens pounced early and earned a decisive 4-1 victory at the Bell Center.
The Kings left home with the most points in the Western Conference. Now they're in sixth place, falling fast, with a game against the Chicago Blackhawks, the defending champions, coming up on Saturday. The Kings have now lost five of their last six games and are 5-7-0 on the road.
``If I could put my finger on it, I would tell the team and we wouldn't be in this slump,'' Rob Scuderi said. ``It just seems to be the way it's going. I thought tonight was probably the worst we've played, of the last four or five games. At least (before) we played two good periods and then seemed to lose it. Not that we're happy about that, but I think tonight seemed to be the worst effort of all.''
Given a chance to stamp themselves as an elite team, the Kings instead went 1-3 in the East. Shaky defense was a persistent and troubling theme throughout this four-game trip. The Kings allowed 14 goals in four games on the trip and have allowed 25 goals in their last six games.
Rather than analyze individual breakdowns, captain Dustin Brown pointed to a lack of work ethic.
``Our game hasn't been there, and wasn't there tonight,'' Brown said. ``I think, first, we've got to get back to working hard. We're not working nearly as hard as we were when we were winning games. Maybe that's a result of, when you're winning, things come easy. Right now, we're not winning, so it's a struggle, and we need to get back to that.''
Goaltending has not been perfect for the Kings, to be certain, but neither Jonathan Bernier -- who lost for the fifth time in seven starts this season -- nor Jonathan Quick has received the necessary support, particularly in the area directly in front of the net, where the Kings are typically strong.
``We seem to be losing our assignments, trying to do too much work,'' Scuderi said. ``You have to trust your teammates, and trust that he's going to do his job and you have to do yours. I know, on the goal I was (on the ice) for, we were all in one area. I can't remember who scooped up the puck, but the guy was wide open in the slot. That can't happen, especially when you're struggling.
``If the goals don't go in, that's one thing, but we have to be solid in our end, to at least give ourselves a chance.''
Bernier got the start Wednesday near home -- he grew up in Laval, roughly 30 minutes outside Montreal -- but it certainly didn't go the way of his childhood dreams. Montreal fans frequently, and derisively, chanted Bernier's name as the Kings fell behind 2-0 in the first and 3-1 in the second.
``We were a step behind on the plays, and they're a good team,'' Bernier said. ``They have skills and they were making plays in our D zone. Like I said, I think we were just a step behind. And myself, I think I have to be better.''
Bernier struggled with puck control at times. He gave up far too many rebounds -- limiting rebounds was a strength of his last season -- and the speedy Canadiens often won battles for loose pucks. The Kings often looked a step slow in the defensive zone, as they did throughout the trip.
``We've got a lot of work to do,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``We've got a lot of cleaning up to do. They were winning all the races to loose pucks, all the battles along the boards. They played very well. I've only seen them play a few times this year, but that's as good as Montreal has played, in my eyes, this year. They beat us.''
Montreal has not been the kindest of cities to the Kings. In their franchise history, the Kings are now 8-48-11 in regular-season games in Montreal, and they have not won in Montreal since 1999.
Alec Martinez, called up from Manchester of the AHL on Tuesday, scored his first NHL goal on the power play early in the second period. That pulled the Kings within 2-1, but the Canadiens scored just 1:19 later, on a 4-on-4 situation, and that was enough for goalie Carey Price.
The Kings didn't force Price to work much. The speedy Canadiens kept the pressure on the Kings, and the Kings' revamped defense, put together before the game, didn't make an impact. The Kings continue to feel the impact of the loss of Willie Mitchell, who is out with a broken wrist.
Montreal got on the board with a power-play goal at the 9:59 mark. The Kings had a shorthanded 2-on-1 break, but Montreal's P.K. Subban prevented Anze Kopitar from getting to the net or making a pass. That started a break the other way, and after Richardson nearly stripped the puck but instead pushed it ahead, Andrei Kostitsyn found open ice and beat Bernier with a wrist shot.
``Recently, I feel like we're getting caught up in everything else except our own game,'' Scuderi said. ``I thought it was a questionable call, on the first (penalty), but that stuff happens. We got worked up about it, and unfortunately it ended up in the back of the net. Now we're thinking about that, instead of just trying to focus and get back into the game, it just seemed like we were behind the eight ball the rest of the night.''
Defensive breakdowns might have hurt Bernier during the game, but in terms of the first goal, Murray pointed the finger of blame directly toward Bernier.
``I don't like it going through goaltenders,'' Murray said. ``I don't like that. [pause] I just don't like it.''
A 4-on-4 goal gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead. Michael Cammalleri shot from just inside the blue line, and Doughty and Martinez had the front of the net covered, but the puck got through and possibly deflected off of Doughty's stick. Scott Gomez was in tight quarters with Bernier in front of the net, running traffic before the goal with 2:33 remaining in the first period.
Martinez's first NHL goal, on the power play 1:57 into the second period, pulled the Kings within 2-1. Justin Williams' long-range shot was saved, but the rebound deflected wide and onto the stick of Martinez, who fired a high backhand shot that beat Price.
The Canadiens regained their two-goal lead just 1:19 after Martinez' goal. Kostitsyn shot from the slot and Bernier made the save, but the Kings were unable to clear. Brian Gionta pushed the puck to the left circle and Tomas Plekanec beat Bernier at the 3:16 mark to make it 3-1 in favor of Montreal.
``We make it a 2-1 game, and they come right back and score again,'' Murray said. ``But in the second period, we lost composure in the D zone. We really looked loose, and no composure with the puck to make plays. We actually gave them a lot of opportunities, off our own giveaways and turnovers and careless play.''
Montreal kept the pressure on, and took a 4-1 lead with 1:53 remaining in the second period. Alexandre Picard's shot hit the post, and after Drewiske fanned on a clearing attempt in front, Eller picked up the puck in the slot, turned and fired and beat Bernier to give the Canadiens a three-goal lead.
The Canadiens cruised through a scoreless third period as the Kings' road trip ended on a sour note. They will take Thursday off, for Thanksgiving, then return to the ice for practice Friday in preparation for a stretch of intra-state games against Western Conference rivals.
``We go back, and we didn't play well in San Jose,'' Murray said. ``We came home and we had a good game for two periods. We had a tie game going into the third, and we lose it. We have a one-goal game going into the third in the next game, and we lose it.
``So it's not a total, three-period breakdown. We've played very well. We're just not finishing it the right way, the way we have been able to shut down games. Right now, there's a little bit of frustration settling in, because this thing keeps rolling. We've got to work through it. That's all there is to it.''