CHICAGO -- Playing their second game in as many nights, in the home rink of the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Kings figured to need some breaks Sunday night.
They got few.
The Kings hit the goalpost in the game's first minute and got an unlucky deflection on their first goal against, then allowed the go-ahead goal less than a minute after they tied the game early in the second period. It all helped add up to a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks before a sellout crowd of 21,523 at United Center.
``We're pretty disappointed in ourselves here,'' said winger Kyle Clifford, who scored a second-period goal. ``We need to come out and play more consistent. We need to play as a team better. Our all-around game, there's no excuses. We just have to be better.''
The Kings, for the most part, didn't play all that poorly in the first two periods, but they were far from great, particularly in the second period. Perhaps feeling the loss of injured defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, the Kings did a subpar job of clearing the front of the net, which allowed the Blackhawks to create traffic in front of Jonathan Quick.
That was enough for the opportunistic Blackhawks, who took a 3-1 second-period lead.
Wayne Simmonds pulled the Kings within a goal early in the third period, and the Kings seemed to find new energy but couldn't put the game-tying goal past Corey Crawford despite having significant pressure in the Chicago zone at times in the third period.
The Kings outshot the Blackhawks 11-4 in the third period, but their chances of tying the game effectively ended when Dustin Brown was called for boarding with 2:47 remaining.
``Mixed emotions,'' Kings center Anze Kopitar said. ``I thought we played a pretty good game, but a pretty good game against these guys is not good enough. We all know that, in this league, you've got to play 60 minutes, and that second period was not even close to what we need to play.
``The third one was good again. We were all over them, I thought. We had chances, but when you're chasing them, it's not easy, especially against these guys.''
The Kings are now 0-3 against the Blackhawks this season and are 0-6-1 in Chicago since beating the Blackhawks at United Center in overtime on Dec. 30, 2007.
Tuesday's game at Colorado still presents the Kings with an opportunity to finish with a winning record on this five-game road trip, and given the way the first four games of this road trip have gone, it's completely impossible to predict what might come next.
Quick's brilliance in goal allowed the Kings to beat Detroit. The entire team slumbered in a loss to St. Louis and then showed tremendous fire while blasting Nashville.
Sunday's game fell somewhere in between, and the Kings can be excused, somewhat, for not being at top form. They played the previous night while the Blackhawks, coming off an impressive win over the Red Wings, sat home and rested.
Quick allowed three goals on 24 shots but also faced traffic on two of the goals. The bigger problem was up front as the Kings, who had totaled 15 goals in their previous three games, couldn't put consistent pressure on Crawford and Chicago's defense.
``They're a good team,'' Kopitar said of the Blackhawks. ``It's no secret to it. And we're a good team if we play 60 minutes. Tonight, in the second period it was spurts of pretty good. The other spurts were just plays that are not our character. They beared down on it, they scored a few goals, and we fall behind.''
Clifford made a nice move on a second-period goal to briefly tie the game at 1-1, but the Blackhawks scored the go-ahead goal on the period's next shift and took what turned out to be a game-breaking 3-1 lead with 7:35 remaining in the second period.
The Kings seemed to have a mental letdown after they allowed the Blackhawks to retake the lead right after Clifford's goal, and the strong third period wasn't even to recover.
``It's unfortunate that you give one up right away, after we tied it up, but it happens,'' Kopitar said. ``It happens in the game. That's just the things that you have to battle through. It's a little bit of a mind challenge for sure, but you just have to be strong and battle through it.''
The Kings regained the services of Brad Richardson, who had missed the previous four games with an upper-body injury, and assigned John Zeiler to Manchester of the AHL.
Chicago played without injured forwards Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg, but still generated enough offense to top the Kings.
Some of the Kings' best chances came early, as they were active in the Chicago zone in the game's opening minutes, but the energy seemed to wane, particularly after Chicago's second goal, which quickly turned the momentum back in the Blackhawks' favor.
``We got it to a (1-1) game,'' Kings coach Terry Murray said, ``and they came right back down the ice again, the next shift basically, and got the next goal. That's been haunting us over the year, and it came back to bite us again today.''
Fernando Pisani later scored on a counter-attack to put Chicago up 3-1.
Despite playing the previous night, the Kings started the game with energy and nearly got on the board in the first minute, when Justin Williams' shot rang off the goalpost.
After a tight, scoreless first 10 minutes, the Blackhawks got on the board with 8:30 remaining of the season when Jonathan Toews whipped a wrist shot, through mild traffic, from near the top of the circles to beat Quick after an accidental deflection off Drew Doughty. Brian Campbell and Patrick Sharp picked up assists.
``The start wasn't bad,'' Murray said. ``I thought the first period went pretty well. Both teams were exchanging chances and doing the right thing. ''
The teams traded goals within the first two minutes of the second period,
First, Clifford tied the game 1-1 at the 1:34 mark. Simmonds controlled the puck in the neutral zone, and Michal Handzus carried it into the Chicago zone. Clifford skated hard up the left side, took a pass from Handzus and moved from the puck from his forehand to his backhand as he went to the front of the net and tucked the puck around Crawford.
``That was a very nice goal,'' Murray said. ``That was a real power-forward play. He took it right to the hole. That's a brave thing to do, and then nice hands as he got to the net. That was a good effort.''
The Blackhawks got the lead back just 25 seconds later, though, as Keith's slap shot from just inside the blue line got through traffic in front and beat Quick to make it 2-1 for the Blackhawks at the 1:59 mark. Chicago would not trail again.
``I think, on the Keith goal, (Quick) just didn't see it,'' Murray said. ``They had a big body there. We had a player there. But the plays are developed with our own doing, turning the puck over. That's a Stanley Cup championship team that is a transition hockey club and gets things done the right way on the transition, and they capitalized on it.''
Chicago built a 3-1 lead with 7:25 remaining in the second period. The Kings had an offensive-zone chance, but the Blackhawks quickly broke out on the counter after the puck bounced around the boards. Pisani beat Kopitar through the middle of the ice, took a cross-ice pass from Bryan Bickell and beat Quick with a sharp wrist shot. Dave Bolland also got an assist.
The Kings made it a one-goal game again, 1:20 into the third period. Simmonds took a pass from Anze Kopitar, walked the puck out from behind the net and tried to jam it past Crawford. Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson had an accidental deflection, and the puck popped up and landed over the line. Kopitar carried the puck in and got an assist, as did Quick, for his first point of the season and the third point of his career.
1 - 0 CHI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 CHI
3 - 1 CHI