If the Kings deserved an "A" for effort in a gritty 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday at the TD Garden — and they competed hard and fearlessly against a team whose size, physicality and defensive structure echoes their own — goaltender Jonathan Quick didn't want to hear about it.
"Zero points," he said tersely.
There are no consolation prizes in Quick's world, an attitude that helped push the Kings to two Stanley Cup championships the last three seasons. He and his teammates will have to recreate that attitude now simply to get back into the top eight in the West, a pack they trailed as the calendar turned to February.
Hoping to build off their rousing, come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, the Kings played well Saturday. Very well, at times. The Bruins didn't give them many prime scoring chances but the Kings didn't finish the few they had, and this was a game that allowed no wasting of time or chances.
Kind of what their season is becoming.
"We said that a lot lately, that we've played well but it wasn't good enough," said winger Jordan Nolan, who scored the Kings' goal.
In a defeat sealed by Brad Marchand's empty-net goal with 17 seconds left in the third period, playing well got the Kings only their eighth loss in their last 10 games (2-4-4). They're fortunate Winnipeg and Calgary, directly ahead of them in the two West wild-card spots, have cooled off and remain within reaching distance.
"We're not ready to panic," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We have the sense of urgency, no doubt about it. And yet we're ready to start winning games to get back in that playoff race.
"We're not panicking. We're ready for this challenge and we're going to overcome it."
They got the Xs and O's right Saturday and got the respect of the Bruins, who have recorded points in 14 of 15 games after sagging in early December.
"They play really hard all over the ice," Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara said. "It was really tight; there was not much room to do a lot. It was a really tight-checking game and really those goals were not highlight-reel goals. It was kind of like playoff-feel goals."
But the Kings, who hadn't played outside of California since Jan. 1 and haven't won two games in a row since Dec. 18 and Dec. 20, came out of it with zero points. Their road record is 5-10-6 with four games remaining on this trip.
"That's more the game we need to play, but at the same time we put ourselves in a situation where we need to find points," Dustin Brown said. "We take the positives and you've got to move on. You can't sit and dwell on it. There's nothing we can do about it now. We just need to push it to the next level."
If they have a next level now would be a good time to find and consistently show it. Their often-stretched defense played capably Saturday but the offense didn't step up. Every skater except defenseman Matt Greene had at least one shot on goal and Doughty had a team-leading four, but they couldn't finish. That, ultimately, finished them.
"We played really well. Didn't get many opportunities, either team against each other," Coach Darryl Sutter said. "We probably had some high what we call Grade A chances and we've got to bury one of them and we weren't able to."
The Bruins had broken through at 17 minutes 20 seconds of the second period on a shot from the left circle by Marchand past Quick, who appeared to be screened.
"It doesn't matter. It didn't hit me. It went in the net," he said.
The Kings pulled even with seven minutes left in the third period on a long shot by Nolan off the left wing that deflected off a Bruin and past Tuukka Rask. But when Chris Kelly tipped Carl Soderberg's long blast under the crossbar at 14:33 of the third period, the Kings had no response and left with no points.
"We're looking at the standings every day," Brown said. "If you're not, I don't know what's wrong with you. Again, now, there's nothing we can do about tonight."