Playing for the injured Jonathan Quick, Jeff Zatkoff struggles in goal for 0-3 Kings

 Kings Coach Darryl Sutter seemed to know the question was coming and it won’t be the last time he will be answering it.

Here, there and everywhere.

The Kings are 0-3 to open the season after losing, 6-3, to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center. Is there more to this than the absence of injured franchise goalie Jonathan Quick?

“I said it when Jonathan got hurt,” Sutter said. “There’s not one thing I can do about it or anybody can do about it. Expect guys that are in there to play as well as they can. If they play as well as they can, that’s good. That’s what you do, right?”

Except little has gone right for the Kings since Quick was injured in the final 30 seconds of the first period in last week’s season opener at San Jose. Quick is being described as week to week with a groin injury and a more definite timeline is expected soon. 

Against the Wild, Kings goalie Jeff Zatkoff struggled and was pulled after two periods, replaced by veteran Peter Budaj. Zatkoff faced 16 shots and allowed five goals.

Even Trevor Lewis, one of the more dependable forwards for the Kings, has floundered, a minus-four against the Wild and a minus-seven this season. Center Nick Shore was also a minus-four and forward Dustin Brown was a minus-three on Tuesday. 

The Kings were seconds away from heading into the first intermission tied 1-1 but a miscue by veteran defenseman Alec Martinez led to a goal by Minnesota’s Jason Pominville with less than 12 seconds left in the period.

“They scored a goal with 10 seconds left in the first period and we made a line change,” Sutter said. “The guys going on the ice certainly know how much time is on the clock and one guy went behind the net and skated up the ice, passed to them and they went down and scored with 10 seconds left.

“That’s an error from a veteran defenseman. … After we’ve hit three posts and outplayed that team. That’s a bad play. It makes it 2-1. Then there’s two faceoff goals … two of them are faceoff goals. You can’t lose [the faceoff] clean.”

The Wild broke it open with three more goals — in less than five minutes — in the second period to make it 5-1. In this case, the final score was a bit deceptive — the game was not that close. Kings left wing Tanner Pearson, back from his suspension for an illegal hit to the head in the preseason, made his season debut and scored twice, including a goal 50 seconds into the first period.

Anze Kopitar had the other Kings goal. Sutter made three lineup changes against the Wild, taking out forwards Kyle Clifford, Teddy Purcell and defenseman Matt Greene. Defenseman Tom Gilbert, who grew up in nearby Bloomington, Minn., made his Kings’ debut and was paired with Derek Forbort. Nic Dowd played his first game of the season and was on a line with Andy Andreoff and Jordan Nolan.

Last season, the Kings scored two goals in their first three games and lost to the Sharks, the Arizona Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks, allowing 12 goals. They’ve allowed 12 goals in their first three losses this season too.

But all 0-3 starts are not created equal.

“We’re not playing our game,” Kopitar said. “With the exception of the San Jose game, we gave up way too many chances and goals against. We’ve got to cut that down and score some goals ourselves. We have a five-on-three to make it, 2-2, and we don’t cash in. That’s the way it usually goes and they get a power play and they score. There’s a lot of factors to the 0-3 start. We just have to be better, that’s the bottom line.”

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