GLENDALE, Ariz. — The combination of an exhausting trip, a dubious call and the pressure of a road deficit left the Kings yearning to get home and have a chance to right their ways.
The overhaul will date to Tuesday night, when the Phoenix Coyotes jumped on their fatigued division rivals, 3-0, at Jobing.com Arena, meaning the Kings have scored one goal in the last 11 periods, losing for the sixth time in seven games.
"This homestand's huge for us; look at the Pacific Division standings," Kings center Dustin Brown said. "These next four games could be the four biggest games of the year — going into the [Olympic] break. It could be the turning point."
Brown took just one shot and was minus-two in 14 minutes 8 seconds of ice time Tuesday, as his points skid stretched to eight games. He said a "team-wide and personal frustration for some guys in here" is prevalent.
"As a team, we've weathered this stuff in the past," Brown said. "It's important for us to believe in what we have here."
A night after the Kings (30-19-6) produced a satisfying 1-0 victory in San Jose, they couldn't match the energy of Phoenix (25-18-10), which is banking on the five-game homestand it started Tuesday to return to playoff position.
Before the game, Kings Coach Darryl Sutter admitted that playing eight games out of Staples Center since Jan. 13 has been "brutal … no rest, no practice, no energy."
The Coyotes sensed that and pounced.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick tried to duplicate Monday, stopping Oliver Ekman-Larsson's shot and Paul Bissonnette's follow, denying Mikkel Boedker's clean shot and diving forward to leave Jeff Halpern frustrated, stuffing him on a direct shot for good measure.
But that was all early in the first period.
When the Coyotes tried something different, with Ekman-Larsson recovering from a hard hit on him by Drew Doughty and firing a blue-line shot that soared through traffic shielding Quick, the Coyotes led with 4:03 remaining in the first.
Phoenix gave backup goalie Thomas Greiss his first start since the Ducks beat him for four goals Jan.11, and this time Greiss kept the Kings scoreless on 30 shots.
Brown said the Kings didn't have many good scoring chances Tuesday and need to improve their willingness to "get to the dirty areas" around the goal.
"A couple hit the posts … if they don't go in, they don't count," Sutter said.
While the Kings' power-play skid worsened to three for 38, the Coyotes took advantage of concurrent roughing and interference penalties on center Jordan Nolan for slamming into Phoenix's Kyle Chipchura, who briefly left the ice.
Nolan was pummeled from behind by Bissonnette during the second-period scuffle and was puzzled by the official's call that gave Phoenix a power play.
"I try to play a clean, hard game, never been suspended, so I was a little shocked when I got the roughing," Nolan said. "They didn't like the hit, they had to make up something."
Twelve seconds into the advantage, Ekman-Larsson unloaded from just inside the blue line to beat Quick low to his left. Coyotes center Shane Doan's assist was the 500th of his career.
"Second goal was a tough one, tough to chase a two-goal lead on the road," said Sutter, who labeled the Nolan double-penalty "a bad call," and said there was no explanation.
The Kings took just eight shots in the second, and Phoenix iced it in the third by sending a mass of bodies at Quick, with center Antoine Vermette scoring.
"You need a lot of energy to play the game, and clearly that's caught up to us in a lot of instances," Sutter said.
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