After a poor start Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Kings rallied with a brilliant final period that nearly sent the game into overtime. But Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped Drew Doughty's one-timer at the final horn for his 44th save of the night, preserving the Lightning's 4-3 win.
The Kings have a full day off Sunday before returning to the ice Monday to prepare for Tuesday's game with Carolina and the continuation of their season-long seven-game road trip. Here are some things they might reflect on after Saturday's game:
The Kings need everybody to step up… and some are: With Trevor Lewis out indefinitely with an injury and with Dustin Brown facing the possibility of a suspension after his open-ice hit takedown off Mikhail Sergachev on Saturday, the Kings need some production from their depth. And the fourth line of Jonny Brodzinski, Nick Shore and Andy Andreoff has come through on the first two games of the road trip, collecting three goals and eight assists and combining for two of the three goals Saturday.
"Been terrific," coach John Stevens said of the trio. "Shore was out of the lineup for a few games there and has come back in and has really played with a lot of pop and given us a lift.
"The line has been real solid for us. They win a lot of loose-puck battles and create some offense for us. [They] really gave us a lot of life."
Has Darcy Kuemper has returned to earth? After a four-game winning streak that included back-to-back shutouts, Kuemper, the Kings' backup goalie, struggled against Tampa — so much so that Stevens pulled him three minutes into the second period with the Kings down 3-1.
"We had to change the momentum a little bit there," Stevens said. "Any opportunity [the Lightning] had, they capitalized on. And we didn't. For me that was a momentum thing."
If Kuemper can bounce back, it would give the Kings a formidable 1-2 punch between the pipes. If not, Stevens may have to stick with all-star Jonathan Quick, running the risk of wearing him down as the playoff race picks up. And though Quick played well in the road trip opener Friday in Florida, he hasn't exactly been hot either; the win there was just his second in nine games.
The third period belongs to the Kings this season: The Lightning are really, really good — which is why they have the best record in the NHL. But the Kings weren't intimidated, putting together an impressive third period that nearly erased a three-goal deficit to force overtime. That shouldn't have been a surprise since the Kings' 72 goals, 34 goals against and +38 goal differential in the final period all lead the league.
"We should be very pleased with our third period," Anze Kopitar said. "Going into the third period being down 4-1 we could easily just kind of mail it in and go about our business and not really care too much. But we showed character, came back. Just ran out of time."