The Kings discussed the principles they'd have to follow Monday against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team they know well from encounters in the Western Conference finals in 2013 and 2014 and from alternating possession of the Stanley Cup with them every June since the Kings triumphed in 2012.
Play a tight defensive game. Avoid turnovers. Ride out the wave of emotion that always lifts the home team at the jampacked United Center. "Getting scored on three times in the third period," center Anze Kopitar said, "is definitely something we did not talk about."
A game that was playoff-like in its tension and high skill level veered off course for the Kings in the final 20 minutes. Their seven-game winning streak screeched to a halt after Patrick Kane, Teuvo Teravainen and Artem Anisimov scored in the third period to cement a 4-2 victory for the Blackhawks, proving both that rumors of the defending champions' demise are premature and that the Kings have work to do.
Chicago took an early lead when Jonathan Toews finished off a two-on-one break from the left side, but the Kings rebounded well. They pulled even on Alec Martinez's one-timer from above the right circle at 14 minutes 39 seconds of the first period and surged ahead on Kopitar's rebound of a shot by Jake Muzzin at 18:43, Kopitar's fourth goal this season. They protected that lead well, thanks in part to goaltender Jonathan Quick's flashy glove stop on a blistering shot by Kane at 11:40 of the middle period. "I thought we started off OK and the second period wasn't bad," Kopitar said.
According to Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, that's where things began to get worrisome. "If we could have made it 3-1 it probably would have made a big difference," Sutter said. "We just couldn't get the third goal."
That cost them early in the third period, when Kane whipped a shot past a screened Quick and into the upper right corner of the net at 1:22. Teravainen put Chicago ahead at 9:02 after being set up with a brilliant backhand pass from Kane, who was standing behind the net, and Anisimov put the game out of reach for the Kings (7-4-0) with a short-handed goal at 18:27.
"We just can't afford to pretty much [give] away points like that because that's not the way we're built and not the way we talked about the way to play," Kopitar said.
Not even close.
"It was back and forth there and we were pretty sloppy in our play," right wing Dustin Brown said. "We've got to clean it up. A lot of the goals were off our turnovers. When we start turning the puck over it's a sign that we're not playing well."
It didn't help that the Blackhawks jumped on so many of those turnovers. "Not a good thing when Patrick Kane is on the receiving end of most of them. Good line. We couldn't handle it," Sutter said of the trio of Kane, Anisimov and Teravainen.
The Kings did find consolation in knowing they play again Tuesday, in St. Louis. "We'll start another streak," Brown said. "That's the good thing about this league. You're playing every other day or every day. You hit the reset button and try to start another one in St. Louis."
Kopitar — whose roughing penalty in the second period gave him more penalty minutes this season (two) than assists (zero) — said the loss should be a lesson. "If we're going to go 7-1 every time I think everybody's going to be pretty happy," he said. "We've got to put this one behind us. It definitely stinks and it's a not a good feeling right now because we're going into a pretty tough building [Tuesday] too, and we've got to make sure we're better prepared and ready to go."
KINGS AT ST. LOUIS
When: Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. PST
On the air: TV: NBCSN; Radio: 790.
Update: The Blues have been hit hard by injuries, including forwards Paul Stastny (broken foot), Jaden Schwartz (fractured ankle) and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (lower-body injury). However, Vladimir Tarasenko (knee) might return after missing one game. The Blues have won three straight and have given up three goals in that span.