Sports

Kings fails to extend division lead with loss at Winnipeg

Six points were on the table at the start of this week.

Two potential playoff opponents were on the menu and one lottery-bound team and the Kings came away empty-handed.

After clinching a playoff spot, the Kings have lost three consecutive games, culminating with Thursday's 4-1 defeat to Winnipeg. Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 33 saves.

The Kings' scoring woes have surfaced again, four goals in their last three games in the losses to Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg. The injury-riddled Ducks, who secured a playoff berth with an overtime loss at Toronto, pulled within three points of the Pacific Division-leading Kings.

"It's definitely not what we expected coming into this trip," Kings forward Jeff Carter said. "There were games where we could have separated ourselves a little bit and we got to get going.

"We're running out of games. You can't get to the playoffs and flip a switch. We've got a lot of work to do here in the next couple of weeks."

The Kings led, 1-0, on Anze Kopitar's second-period goal on the power play, his 25th goal of the season and had plenty of opportunities to extend their lead.

It was 1-1 after two periods, and the Jets scored similar third-period goals, via long range, from the right point through traffic in front of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. The first, by defenseman Dustin Byfuglein, came at 15 seconds and defenseman Paul Postma scored at 2:54 to break the game open, making it 3-1.

"That kind of put us on our heels right off the bat and then they got another one," said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who assisted on Kopitar's goal.

"So we're not happy in here and we need to fix things real quick."

Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin was a minus-three, and even Kopitar was a minus-two.

It is the second time this season the Kings have lost three straight games. They opened the season with losses to San Jose, Arizona and Vancouver, scoring two goals in three games.

There are eight games remaining and two of their next three are against lottery-bound teams, Edmonton on Saturday and Calgary next Thursday. In between looms a major test, the Sharks, at San Jose on Monday.

The lottery-bound Jets have been hit with a rash of serious injuries. But it is opening the door for ambitious youngsters and that desperation and drive showed at MTS Centre against the Kings.

"After the [trade] deadline, there's a lot of guys getting put in the lineups that are trying to make the team next year," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. "A lot of energy and there's a fine line between playing on the big team and not playing on the big team."

It was mentioned it looked as though the Jets had plenty of players auditioning.

"Hopefully, so [do] we," Sutter said.

Kings center Vinny Lecavalier skated in the morning and was scratched for the game, but Sutter indicated it was not a serious issue.

Sutter said he hoped that winger Kris Versteeg would be able to skate Friday in El Segundo, which would be his first time on the ice since getting injured Saturday in the third period against Boston.

They had thought he might be able to join them on the trip but apparently his foot was still too sore to put on the skate boot.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 25, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Kings can't extend lead - They struggle to score and lose a third straight game after clinching playoff spot. - WINNIPEG 4 KINGS 1" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
Loading
62°