Sixty-six seconds was all it took to turn what was looking like a decent effort by the Kings at home into harsh reality, getting them knocked out of a wild-card playoff spot.
For the moment.
Nashville scored on consecutive shots, in a span of 66 seconds, as the Predators defeated the Kings, 2-1, at Staples Center on Saturday night. The winning goal, coming at 7:43 of the third, went to the Predators' Viktor Stalberg. But it was an own goal as Stalberg's shot was deflected by Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, who put it past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
The Kings, whose lone goal was scored on the power play by center Jeff Carter (24th of the season) in the first period, had needed at least one point to retain the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference because the Winnipeg Jets moved past them via a victory over Tampa Bay earlier in the day.
"Obviously a tough loss," said Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "I don't think we managed the puck good enough, especially coming out of our zone to make plays and really set up some chances on the rush or to have some [offensive] zone time.
"We have to be better with that in the next game.
This one was especially difficult to handle for the Kings because it didn't start to unravel until the third period, in a chain reaction of mishaps. First off, Kings rookie center Nick Shore was penalized for delay of game — a faceoff violation — and the Predators converted on the power play at 6:37.
Defenseman Ryan Ellis shot through traffic from above the left circle and the puck trickled past Quick. Craig Smith alertly got to it at the right post and the goal ended Quick's shutout streak at 118 minutes 10 seconds, dating back to the third period of the Kings game at Colorado on Tuesday.
The Predators scored on their very next shot — with help from Muzzin.
"Any game at this time of year is tough to lose and the points are important," Kings forward Dwight King said. "Going into the third, when you have a lead, you'd like to finish off the game.
"It was a hard-fought game. They're a big physical team and they move the puck really well. As far as momentum goes, I think they kind of built on it in the second period where we got sloppy with the puck."
The Kings were without center Jarret Stoll, who suffered an upper-body injury in Thursday's game at Vancouver. His injury appeared to be a result of a questionable-looking hit from Canucks forward Derek Dorsett in the third period.
Does the injury mean a recall of center Mike Richards?
Not yet, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said, via email.
Still, they were one period away from winning Saturday night. Kopitar addressed the series of events in the third period but admitted he didn't think they played well enough to win.
Kopitar and his wife Ines became parents for the first time with Ines giving birth shortly after midnight to a girl, Neza. He hasn't slept much since the team returned from Vancouver and reported that everyone in the family is doing well after the long last few days.
"Once you come here, you try to put everything behind you and focus on the game. Then they remind you in the middle of the third period," Kopitar said of the pictures of him and his wife and baby on the video board at Staples Center.
"It's not the easiest thing to do, but I wanted to be here for the guys. Actually, it was Ines that told me to go and play. I wanted to go, but she said, 'I know you're going to be itching in the hospital watching. You might as well go. You're not going to be here with me. Just go and do your thing.'
"Obviously, she's the best. She's definitely a trouper."