NASHVILLE — A tepid, almost boring hockey game was chugging along here Saturday night and seemingly was headed for overtime.
Then came the final 3:18.
What unfolded was the Kings' committing a penalty-kill miscue. Nashville countered with a lapse of its own when the Kings pulled goalie Ben Scrivens for an extra attacker and tied it with Jeff Carter's goal at 19:23. Ten seconds later, blown coverage by the Kings and center Mike Richards led to the game-winner by the Predators' Mike Fisher with 27 seconds remaining.
And so, the reeling Nashville Predators beat the Kings, 3-2, at Bridgestone Arena for their first victory in six games, after a rough loss at Dallas on Friday. The Kings, who lost to the Stars on Monday, took their second defeat in a row.
Two mistakes loomed large for one frustrated hockey team.
Fisher, who scored twice and added an assist, was a force in the final minutes. His first goal came when the Kings' penalty-killers got caught making a change and the ice opened for Fisher.
Scoring for the Kings were Carter and Anze Kopitar. It was Carter's 12th of the season, and it was Kopitar's 12th as well.
Kopitar, perhaps, summed it up best.
"Two goals that obviously ended up hurting us … in two unlike-us mistakes," he said. "I don't know if it was Christmas-like sloppiness or whatever the case might be. It's unacceptable and we have to be sharper."
The game-winner was reviewed by the NHL's hockey operations in Toronto, and Scrivens thought there was a chance it didn't completely cross the line.
"It was pretty close," Scrivens said. "From where I was, I didn't think it completely crossed. Video has a better vantage point."
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter put defenseman Willie Mitchell back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 14. Mitchell had been out because of an upper-body injury, and to get him back in, Sutter went with seven defensemen.
He was not pleased.
"I thought our D was very average again," Sutter said.
And of the play on the winning goal, he said: "Pretty bad coverage."
Said Scrivens: "A guy broke down the wall and threw it in front. They were able to get a stick on it and direct it on net. I got a large chunk but not enough. That's an extremely frustrating way to lose a hockey game."
Said Mitchell: "I think we maybe could have been more aggressive at the line. … We had numbers and there was a little bit of blown coverage up the middle."
The league's situation room blog released its summary of the decision, along with a photo from the NHL's in-net camera. "Video review supported the referee's call on the ice that Mike Fisher's shot completely crossed the goal line."
Mitchell's ice time was 20-plus minutes, and he was his usual fixture on the penalty-killing unit. Kings captain Dustin Brown, who had missed one game because of the flu, returned and played 15:42 with two shots on goal.
"We made a few mistakes that cost us. What we've done all year is battle back, and it was a bad change by us on the penalty kill on one," Mitchell said.
Said Kopitar: "Usually bad things happen when all four guys go and change [on the penalty kill]. Definitely not trying to point fingers by any means. Like I said, it's unlike us. It doesn't matter who did it or not. It just can't happen again."