King Coach Tom Webster is back home, recovering from flu.
If he made the mistake of watching his club on television Monday, he’s probably not feeling any better.
The Kings are also ailing these days, a team suddenly in need of recovery from a downward spiral that resulted in a 6-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
It’s not only that the Kings lost, giving up a hat trick to rookie Stu Barnes before 13,965at Winnipeg Arena.
It’s how the Kings lost. And to whom.
First, how they lost.
Early and decisively.
Although the Kings are 4-2-2 in their last eight games, they have given up the first goal in all eight games and nine of their previous 10.
“We just seem to be sitting back, waiting for something to happen,” Wayne Gretzky said. “We are not using our speed or our forechecking. Those are the abilities we are going to have to use to go after them. But we’re doing just the opposite. We are sitting back on our heels. It’s horrendous. We can’t play like that. We are sending four guys back and bang, bang, it’s in our net.”
Make that bang, bang, bang.
The Jets had a 3-0 lead four minutes into the game.
Dean Kennedy, the former King, scored his second goal of the season after a faceoff 1:36 into the game. Luciano Borsato won the faceoff from Bob Kudelski and got the puck to Kennedy barely inside the blue line. He fired a slap shot through the pads of goalie Daniel Berthiaume.
At 2:05 of the period, Russ Romaniuk added his second goal.
At 4:03, Ed Olczyk put in a rebound for his 10th goal.
That was it for Berthiaume, four minutes, four shots, three goals. He was replaced by Kelly Hrudey.
Of equal concern ought to be the team that beat the Kings. This wasn’t exactly an NHL powerhouse.
Things have been going so badly for the Jets, they benched three of their top guns Monday because they have been firing mostly blanks.
Pat Elynuik (three goals in 17 games), Paul MacDermid (two goals in 15 games) and Mark Osborne (no goals in 12 games) were all given a rest by Winnipeg Coach John Paddock in a desperate bid to instill some life in an offense that has produced only 15 goals in the last six games (during which the Jets are 0-4-2) and only one even-strength goal in the last three games.
In addition, longtime star Thomas Steen has sat out all season because of back problems.
The power play has been the only beacon for Winnipeg’s offense. Before Monday, the Jets had converted on 24 of 98 power-play attempts, a 24.5% success rate, best in the NHL.
But the team had scored only 27 goals at even strength, only three more than its power-play total.
Winnipeg hadn’t had a hat trick since March of 1989, a total of 185 games.
So what happened Monday?
The Jets went one for seven on the power play, but scored five at even strength, outshooting the Kings, 42-24, including 21-5 in the first period.
It is the second time in three games the Kings have surrendered more than 20 shots in a period. The Vancouver Canucks outshot them, 23-7, last week in the second period of their game at the Forum.
By the third period Monday, the Kings had climbed back. Mike Donnelly’s seventh goal, in the first period, and Bob Kudelski’s eighth pulled them to 3-2 early in the third period.
But then Barnes, who had two goals in his 16 previous games, scored three in a row, the last on a power play, to ensure the Jets (7-7-4) of a victory that puts them two points behind the Kings (8-5-4) and Calgary Flames, who are tied for second in the Smythe Division.
Barnes had scored both of his previous goals in a game against the Washington Capitals.
The Kings have plenty to ponder tonight, when they play the Vancouver Canucks--needless penalties, lack of aggressiveness and defensive breakdowns.
“We’re all aware that it’s self-inflicted,” Hrudey said. “It’s not because the other teams are that much better. It starts with all of us. There’s not a single guy who can stand here and tell you he’s doing his job.”
Wayne Gretzky says his father, Walter, who suffered a brain aneurysm Oct. 16, is out of intensive care and about to begin rehabilitation. “Everybody goes through troubles in life,” said Gretzky, shaking off questions about whether his father’s condition is affecting his play. “Nobody is dealt four aces.”