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Second period ruins Kings in 5-2 loss to Predators

The Kings have done the San Jose thing, played the St. Louis Blues plenty in the playoffs in recent years and, further back, engaged the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames in the postseason.

Never the Nashville Predators.

Could this be the year?

There are three weeks remaining in the regular season and with the teams tightly bunched, several potential scenarios are still viable. If Monday night served as a trailer for a possible Kings-Predators playoff matchup, expect a tightly contested series.

Nashville scored three second-period goals and held off a determined third-period surge by the Kings in a 5-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena.

It was the Kings' first loss in five games and their first in regulation since March 5.

The previous two meetings between the teams went to overtime, the Kings winning both. But the Predators have lost only three times in regulation since Feb. 4, and two of the losses were to the league-leading Washington Capitals.

Nashville has a star goalie (Pekka Rinne) with 30 wins and Rinne is on a 10-1-2 run, and the Kings can counter with their All-Star goalie, Jonathan Quick, who has 37 victories.

The Kings have a Norris Trophy contender in defenseman Drew Doughty and the Predators have their own dynamic young defenseman in Roman Josi.

In fact, Washington Coach Barry Trotz, who once coached Josi in Nashville, said recently that Josi and Doughty were probably the two best defensemen in the NHL.

In other words, it could be an interesting first-round playoff series … only with not a lot of goal-scoring.

As much as the Predators' celebration Monday was about center Mike Fisher's 1,000th NHL game — and he scored a determined goal, converting his own rebound — there were stellar efforts by Ryan Johansen, who had a goal and two assists, and James Neal, who had a goal and an assist.

The Kings clinched a playoff spot on Saturday and looked fatigued.

Quick kept them in it, stopping a couple of breakaways before it all went haywire in the second period.

“The second period wasn't good at all,” said Kings center Anze Kopitar, who had two assists and is on seven-game point streak.

“There's not one thing we did good, except for Quickie's play.”

Among other things, the Predators' stingy defense posed problems.

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter replaced Quick with Jhonas Enroth for the third period, hoping for a spark, and the Kings scored twice.

“I thought we had a decent first period,” said Sutter. “The second period we turned the puck over a little bit and gave them odd-man rushes. Our forwards had trouble getting to the net against their defense. Most of our chances came up top from our defense. That's the way it goes.”

Said Doughty: “I don't think we really created any chances besides [Tanner Pearson's] breakaway in the first two periods. That's not good hockey coming from us. Quickie had to make a lot of big saves in the first and in the second. We just came out flat and we weren't ready to play.”

On Monday, the Kings were without winger Kris Versteeg, who was injured in the third period of Saturday's game against the Boston Bruins when he took a shot off his foot and did not return. Tyler Toffoli started the game on a line with Kopitar and Milan Lucic.

Sutter said there was no fracture and that Versteeg was considered day to day. He said he hoped Versteeg would be able to join them on this trip, possibly in Minnesota, as the Kings play the Wild on Tuesday.

NEXT UP

KINGS AT MINNESOTA WILD

When: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. PDT.

Where: Xcel Energy Center

On the air: NBC Sports Network; Radio: 790.

Update: Minnesota also is in the great wild-card hunt in the Western Conference, one point behind the Colorado Avalanche for the final spot. Forward Thomas Vanek, who has the third-most goals for the Wild this season, has been a healthy scratch of late.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 22, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Kings fall apart after first period - Predators score three goals in second period, send L.A. to first loss in five games. - NASHVILLE 5, KINGS 2" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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