LOS ANGELES – Darryl Sutter walked to the podium, looked at the assembled media and broke the ice with a one-liner.
“Welcome back,” the Los Angeles Kings coach said.
It was the one light moment in a disappointing night for Sutter and the Kings, who, for the second time in three seasons, came out flat in their Stanley Cup banner-raising opener. This time, Los Angeles suffered a 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks in front of 18,514 at Staples Center.
Most of the energy from the ceremony dissipated in the opening minutes of the first period and went downhill from there. Having been through this before, the Kings said the ceremony was not a distraction nor an excuse. They didn’t have any explanation otherwise.
“Obviously we didn’t have the start we were looking for,” defenseman Alec Martinez said. “You can’t come out like that against a hockey club of San Jose’s caliber or anyone, quite frankly, in the League. We’ve got to look at what we did wrong. Obviously a lot of X's and O's, but preparation and coming prepared to play was a factor. We weren’t ready.”
Earlier this week, defenseman Drew Doughty talked about learning from their banner-raising opener two seasons ago, when they came out flat against the Chicago Blackhawks in a 5-2 loss. The Kings took precautionary steps, from a more-focused offseason regimen leading up to the opener to a shortened ceremony meant to reduce the wait time before puck drop.
Sutter often referenced the 70-day plan they adhered to for transitioning in what was their first truly short summer in three years. But that didn’t explain a defensive breakdown that led to San Jose forward Tommy Wingels’ breakaway goal and a puck-handling miscue by goalie Jonathan Quick 14 seconds later that allowed Matt Nieto to give the Sharks a 4-0 lead.
“Anytime you score back-to-back goals that quickly, the momentum swings, but it’s also a 4-0 game at that point,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “We have to clean up our game. They were good tonight, and we weren’t. If we clean up our puck movement and how quickly we can move the puck, it becomes a lot cleaner, easier game for us.”
Brown echoed Martinez in stating that the ceremony was not a distraction. But that also makes it more difficult to explain giving San Jose four power plays in the first 25 minutes and going 0-for-4 on the power play, including a 67-second two-man advantage. Center Mike Richards was minus-2 and lost 13 of 15 faceoffs.
Brown half-joked that there are worse problems to have than going through a Stanley Cup banner ceremony before he got serious.
“It’s one of those things that kind of goes with the territory,” Brown said. “I don’t think that’s why we were sloppy. We were sloppy because we didn’t prepare properly.”
The Sharks suggested the ceremony worked to their advantage. It was their first regular-season win at Staples Center since Jan. 1, 2011.
“It's one game,” Wingels said. “They had a lot going on before the game, which probably needed a lot of attention, and we were able to come out and start well. When you're sitting around here, not a lot going on, you kind of get a relaxed atmosphere, and we were ready to go at puck drop. We sustained that throughout the game. It was a good first 60 minutes for us this season."