LOS ANGELES – The Predators struck for two goals in a 1:06 span during the third period; just enough for the Kings to fall to Nashville 2-1 Saturday night at STAPLES Center.
The loss was a rather difficult one to take for the Kings, who entered the third period with a 1-0 lead. It didn’t help that the Winnipeg Jets, one of the teams the Kings are fighting with to attain a playoff spot, won today, reclaiming the Western Conference’s second and final wild-card spot.
“It’s obviously a tough loss,” Anze Kopitar stressed following the game. “We didn’t manage the puck well enough, especially coming out of our own zone, to make plays and really set up some chances on the rush, or to have some offensive zone time. We’re going to have to be better with that next game.”
Jonathan Quick, who was following up on his 19-save shutout performance Thursday night, bailed the Kings out with a couple of key saves in the opening minutes of play. The Kings’ offense soon returned the favor.
Just under eight minutes into the first period, Jeff Carter got the Kings on the board, scoring his team-leading 24th goal of the season. Carter’s marker came during the Kings’ first power play of the evening, when he slammed home a rebound off of an Andrej Sekera shot and past Pekka Rinne from the heart of Nashville’s slot.
Carter’s goal continued what has been a very successful career against Nashville. Per Jon Rosen, in 19 career games against the Predators, with the Kings, Blue Jackets, and Flyers, Carter has amassed 22 points (13G, 9A).
Andy Andreoff, who was playing in his first game since March 1, just barely missed adding to the Kings’ lead when he rung a shot off of the crossbar shortly after Carter netted his goal.
After a scoreless second period, the Kings entered the third hanging onto a one-goal lead. Nick Shore was called for a faceoff violation just under five minutes into the final frame, and Nashville executed on their opportunity. Seth Jones chipped home a rebound from a Ryan Ellis shot to tie the score 1-1 with 13:23 to play.
Just 1:06 after Jones’ equalizer, an unfortunate deflection gave the Predators a 2-1 lead – which would be the night’s eventual final score. While defending a basic 3-on-2 sequence, Jake Muzzin looked to cut off a pass from Viktor Stalberg. The puck redirected off of Muzzin’s stick, off the crossbar, and past Jonathan Quick.
The Kings were unable to generate much opportunity thereafter, suffering their first regulation loss in five games.
“Any game at this time of year is tough to lose,” Dwight King said following the loss. “The points are important. Going into the third period having the lead you’d like to finish out the game but it didn’t go our way.”
Points are in fact huge for the Kings right now, who have 14 games remaining on their schedule as they find themselves out of the playoff picture. The Kings are one point behind the Winnipeg Jets for the Western Conference’s second and final wild-card spot, and two points behind the Calgary Flames for the Pacific Division’s third and final playoff berth.
The Kings will have to look to Monday night against Arizona to pad their points as the regular season nears its end.
Jeff Carter (1G), Andrej Sekera (1A), and Drew Doughty (1A) led all Kings players in points scored, Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter in shots taken (4), Dustin Brown in hits delivered (7), Jake Muzzin in shots blocked (3), and Drew Doughty in minutes played (28:23). Jonathan Quick made 21 saves in the loss.
With the loss, the Kings’ record drops to 33-22-13; their mark on home ice at STAPLES Center dips down to 21-8-7. The Kings will finish their home stand Monday night when the Arizona Coyotes pay their final visit to STAPLES Center this season; the puck is slated to drop just after 7:30PM PT.