Playing well was moderate consolation for the Kings on Saturday night after their 1-0 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they're well aware that getting one point instead of two has put them in a bind as the number of games left in the season dwindles.
Patric Hornqvist gained control of the puck in the high slot and rifled a shot past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick 1:44 into sudden-death play, stunning the standing-room-only crowd at Staples Center. The Kings had been unable to clear the puck out of their zone and it came to Jeff Carter in the corner; he tried to pass to Tyler Toffoli but Penguins defenseman Paul Martin stepped in front of Toffoli and jarred the puck loose. Hornqvist pounced on it.
"It's just a play that happens," said defenseman Matt Greene, who had taken his man out behind the net. "We're trying to make plays and it's just a bad bounce. I thought we played a good game tonight but we've got to find a way to get it done."
The Kings remain out of a playoff spot. They're one point behind Calgary for third place in the Pacific Division, and the Flames hold an edge of having more regulation and overtime wins than the Kings do. The Kings also stand three points behind Winnipeg for the second Western conference wild-card spot.
The Kings had 31 shots on Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who recorded his ninth shutout of the season. Quick faced only 18 shots but many were high quality.
"We played really well," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. "They're a tough nut to crack over there, with Fleury. I don't think there were a lot of chances either way but there was a lot of good chances. That's the way it goes."
But it didn't go far enough for the Kings, who have been shut out, 1-0, twice in their last six games. Ottawa prevailed by that score on Feb. 26.
One point isn't good enough now.
"It helps us but these are the tight games that you've got to win," Greene said. "At this time of the year you've got to win the one-goal games. We've got to find a way to do that. We're chasing teams right now."
Quick didn't have a lot of work but he made some noteworthy saves during the second period. With Pittsburgh on a power play after Andrej Sekera was penalized for high-sticking at 13:42 Quick stopped Hornqvist, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz to keep the Penguins scoreless.
Fleury was equally sharp, perhaps at his best in making two stops on Marian Gaborik in quick succession just short of the midway point of the third period, with both teams coming forward and pushing for goals. A few minutes later he stopped a tough, close-range shot from Dustin Brown, a right-handed shooter who was dashing in on the left side.