The Kings came away with a point against the St. Louis Blues on a night when their leading scorer, center Anze Kopitar, did not play after the opening period.
The Blues almost always bring out the best in the Kings and Thursday night was no different. It was an intense, physical battle featuring a taut goaltending duel between the Kings' Jonathan Quick and his St. Louis counterpart Brian Elliott. Jaden Schwartz won it at 1:40 of overtime, finishing off a partial breakaway as his shot hit the post and went in off the back of Quick's left skate, giving Blues a 2-1 win at Scottrade Center
If Tuesday night's loss at Washington felt like a playoff game, so did this contest, only it was a different variety, a hard-hitting, physical battleKings defenseman Drew Doughty played a game-high 35 minutes 16 seconds, a career-high for Doughty in the regular season.
"It was a fun hockey game to be a part of," Doughty said. "It wasn't the outcome we wanted. But that was a man's game out there tonight. It was a hard-fought game. That's the type of game the Kings like to be in.
"We need to come out on top on those. We're sick of losing right now. We've got to get off this losing streak right now. Teams are right behind us. We want to come out first in our division and right now it's not looking like we're going to do that."
Kings center Jeff Carter, who set up their only goal (by Tyler Toffoli, on the power play in the third period to make it 1-1), acknowledged the shift in the Pacific Division. The Kings are winless in their last three games and have scored twice in those three games.
"We have to start winning some games," Carter said. "We've lost all our room [in the standings] now and we've got to start scoring some goals."
Their once-massive lead in the division has not quite evaporated. The Ducks, on a strong surge since Christmas, pulled within two points of the Kings with a win at Vancouver on Thursday. Third-place San Jose won again too, and is one point behind the Ducks. And the Sharks have played one fewer game.
Any period of time without Kopitar would be a troublesome development for the Kings. He played nine shifts in the first period (5:12 of ice time) and did not return as the team called it a lower-body injury. It is suspected the injury occurred earlier on the trip, based on that there was no apparent new issue in Thursday's contest.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, as is his custom, declined to give any update on Kopitar's condition. "No, doesn't come from the head coach," Sutter said, regarding injuries.
Kopitar was also injured, in St. Louis on Nov. 3 but did not miss any games. Again, the Kings dug deep without him and generated some momentum after killing off a five-on-three for 1:54 in the third period.
"We'll take the point now," Carter said. "I thought we battled hard. Going down, losing Kopi early, guys stepped up."
It was a goaltending clinic at both ends. In overtime, Elliott made a stellar glove save on Kings left wing Milan Lucic at 1:10. Just after Kings center Vinny Lecavalier tried to throw the puck in front of Elliott, Schwartz managed to fight off Kings defenseman Alec Martinez in the Blues zone and went in on the breakaway with Lecavalier in pursuit.
"That's probably the longest breakaway I'll ever have," Schwartz said.
The goal came when Doughty was not on the ice. Doughty bordered on omnipresent in the third and in overtime but insisted he wasn't tired, saying: "I'll do whatever it takes to win hockey games. If that means I have to play 50 minutes, I'll play 50 minutes."
Said Carter: "He just goes and goes and goes. It's pretty amazing what he can do out there. I asked him after the game if he felt tired and he said, 'No, it felt great.' That's just him. He loves playing. The more he plays the better he is."