There was no need to watch the out-of-town scoreboard at Staples Center on Monday night. To check in on their nearest rival for the Western Conference’s final playoff berth, all the Kings and St. Louis Blues had to do was look across the ice.
And when they did it was the Kings who blinked first, with goals by David Perron, Magnus Paajarvi and an empty-netter by Alexander Steen lifting the Blues to a 3-1 win that put a major dent in the Kings’ postseason plans.
Dustin Brown got the Kings’ goal after they pulled their goalie with less than three minutes to play, but that did little more than change the final score and make the final seconds interesting.
The loss ended the Kings’ winning streak at two games and dropped them five points behind St. Louis with 14 games left to play.
“Just not pay attention to standings, not pay attention to what other the other teams did. And just worry about us and win every single game for the rest of the season,” defenseman Drew Doughty said when asked how the Kings will approach the rest of the schedule.
“That one stung knowing what was at stake. And we had some chances. But it’s a loss and we’ve got to get over it real quick.”
To pass the Blues, the Kings will have to win three more games than St. Louis over the next month. So even if the Blues lose half of their final 14 games, the Kings would have to win 10 of their final 14 to finish with a better record.
The Kings haven’t won 10 games in a 14-game stretch this season.
Adding to the challenge is the fact the Kings and Blues, who don’t meet again this season, face different schedules down the stretch. The Kings play only five games against teams who entered Monday with a losing record and St. Louis plays eight games against teams that are below .500, including three with last-place Arizona and three with Colorado, which has the worst record in the league.
That may make Monday’s loss more than just a missed opportunity for the Kings. It could make it a dagger into the heart of their postseason hopes.
Given the high stakes, both teams played conservatively in the early going, combining for only 15 shots in the first period. And though the Kings opened things up in the second, taking 21 shots, it was St. Louis that struck first, with a persistent Perron scoring with less than seven minutes left in the period.
Jonathan Quick made a sliding stop on Perron’s first attempt at the left post, but the puck stayed under the Kings goalie and the winger reached in with his stick to dig it out before pushing it into the net.
St. Louis doubled the advantage on Paajarvi’s goal 70 seconds into the third period.
Again Quick stopped the first shot, turning away a wrister from Alex Pietrangelo near the left faceoff circle. But the rebound bounced to Patrik Berglund who sent it back on goal, where Paajarvi deflected it in.
The goal was only the fourth power-play score the Kings have given up in their last 55 penalty-kill opportunities.
Jake Allen was brilliant in goal, withstanding the Kings’ second-period barrage and finishing with 38 saves.
Brown broke up the shutout, poking a rebound through a scramble of bodies in front of the net for his 11th goal.
Steen closed the scoring with seven seconds to play.
It was the Blues’ fifth victory in a row and their first win in regulation at Staples Center in six years.
“The best part about this game, we play again tomorrow,” Kings Coach Darry Sutter said.
KINGS VS. ARIZONA COYOTES
When: Tuesday, 7:30. p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: The Kings have had some luck against the Coyotes this season, winning two one-goal games in Arizona before losing the only meeting at Staples Center last month. The Kings are 5-5-2 in the second game of back-to-backs.