Losing to a quality team is one thing. Losing because of self-inflicted wounds is an entirely different matter.
Even with the highest level of discipline, the Kings would have had their hands full with the Vancouver Canucks. A disastrous first six minutes set the tone for the Kings, though, and they went on to a 3-2 loss to the Canucks on Thursday night before a sellout crowd of 18,118 at STAPLES Center.
The Kings trailed 3-0 by the end of the first period, and given their offensive woes this season, that was too much to overcome. The Kings scored a second-period goal, and made it interesting with a late-third-period goal, but they failed to score three regulation goals for the 13th time in 16 games this season.
``You don’t want to get down one goal, two goals, it doesn’t matter,’’ Kings goalie Jonathan Quick said. ``You always want to score the first goal and we were unable to do that tonight. The next 50 minutes, we were trying to get out of the hole we dug ourselves in, but came up a little short there.’’
Vancouver entered the game with the league’s second-best power-play percentage, and the Kings essentially put the game on a plate, with the first serving coming three minutes into the game.
That’s when Kings winger Trevor Lewis received a five-minute elbowing penalty. The Kings did a strong job in killing off the first half of the penalty, but then their trouble doubled when Drew Doughty got called for cross-checking Ryan Kesler, which gave the Canucks a 5-on-3 power play for two minutes.
The Canucks pounced. Sami Salo’s slap shot went off the post and into the Kings’ net at the 6:51 mark and, 42 seconds later, with the Canucks still on the power play, Andrew Ebbett’s attempt at a centering pass went off the skate of Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell and into the net for a 2-0 Vancouver lead.
``That’s tough,’’ Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. ``It’s tough getting a kill like that. That happens to every team, and it’s a tough stretch in the game but it’s going to happen and we’ve got to get those kills.’’
The Kings showed some fight after that, but for all practical purposes, the game ended there.
The Kings have scored more than two regulation goals in a game only three times this season, and the Canucks, with a two-goal lead, were able to turn the game over to a deep, talented stable of defensemen and one of the top goalies, in Roberto Luongo. They weren’t done scoring, either.
Aaron Rome’s slap shot, from high above the right circle through traffic, beat Quick with 4:18 left to make it a 3-0 game. In the first period, the Kings had an equal number of shots on goal (three) and goals allowed.
``The bulk of the season is coming up here, huge, important parts of the season here,’’ Kings winger Justin Williams said. ``The offensive, and certainly myself at the top of the list, should be scoring more, getting to the net. I think we had a lot of chances tonight. We didn’t quite come through. But we need to find ways, when we’re down (in) games, to come back.
``I felt the spirit on the ice, when we were down a couple goals. We still had the fight, and that’s a real good sign, but we need to get a comeback win, just for our psyche, to know that we can come back, for our confidence. It was a good step, getting two, but it’s obviously not good enough.’’
Early-game penalties have become a disturbing trend for the Kings, who have now been called for at least one penalty within the first four minutes in four consecutive games: Simon Gagne against Pittsburgh (0:37), Ethan Moreau against San Jose (2:09), Jarret Stoll against Nashville (0:25) and Lewis.
In the other three games, the Kings were able to kill off the early penalties, it didn’t happen against the Canucks and their stellar power play. Quick deserved better but got stuck with the unimpressive numbers, as he allowed the three goals on 32 Vancouver shots.
The Kings found life in the second period, on Doughty’s power-play goal, and arguably outplayed the Canucks for long stretches -- shots were 15-6 in the third period -- but couldn’t overcome their start.
A disastrous first six minutes for the Kings included Lewis’ five-minute major penalty and Doughty’s cross-checking penalty. The Canucks scored on the ensuing 5-on-3 advantage, as Salo took a pass from Daniel Sedin and beat Quick with a shot that went in off the post. Ryan Kesler also got an assist as the Canucks took a 1-0 lead at the 6:51 mark.
Still on the power play, thanks to the major penalty, the Canucks took a 2-0 lead at the 7:33 mark. Ebbett carried the puck down low and attempted a centering pass, but the puck deflected off the skate of Mitchell and into the net. Cody Hodgson and Alexander Edler got assists on the play.
``A couple of those calls, a few of us wouldn’t agree with, but at the end of the day you always have to be disciplined, no matter what,’’ Quick said. ``Even if you get a call you don’t think you deserved, it is what it is and you have to fight it off and you have to kill it off.''
After the Kings failed to score on a power play, the Canucks pushed their lead to 3-0 with 4:18 remaining in the first period. Rome wound up for a slap shot, with traffic in front of the net, and the high shot beat Quick just as he raised his glove. Assists went to Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin.
The Kings got on the scoreboard with a power-play goal with 9:30 remaining in the second period. Jack Johnson faked a slap shot, then passed to Doughty. With Dustin Brown running traffic in front, Doughty's one-time shot went off the corner of the crossbar and into the net to pull the Kings within 3-1. Anze Kopitar also got an assist.
With their net empty, the Kings made it interesting when they scored with 1:10 remaining. Mike Richards’ shot deflected off the skate of a defender in front of the net, and the puck went in. Kopitar and Doughty got assists, and the Kings buzzed around Luongo in the final minute but couldn’t score.
``It’s very hard to dig out of a hole like that against that team,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``They’re just too deep, too good. They were President’s Trophy winners for a reason. We couldn’t do it, bottom line. We tried. We worked. I liked everything that we were trying to do on the penalty kill, right through the 5-on-5 in the third period. We did a real good job with intensity and compete.
``I thought we were carrying the play in the third period, trying hard to get back into it. You get close, but it’s too hard to turn the tables sometimes.’’
1 - 0 VAN
2 - 0 VAN
3 - 0 VAN
3 - 1 VAN