The Kings have tumbled so far, they fell right out of a playoff spot on Saturday night.
That's right. In the very same place the Kings' franchise had finally earned respect by playing in the Cup finals, they lost, 4-0, to the Montreal Canadiens and were passed by Detroit for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
The Kings, who have lost five consecutive games, are in ninth place with 20 points, two points behind the Red Wings and four points behind the seventh-place San Jose Sharks. Montreal goaltender Patrick Roy, who was the most valuable player of the finals, delighted the sellout Forum crowd of 17,959 with his 23rd career shutout and third of the season as he faced 30 shots.
Four points behind the Sharks? In October, it would have seemed like the punch line to a bad joke.
"I think it sunk in before, when they even got close to us," King defenseman Charlie Huddy said. "We've just got to fight through this. Every game we lose is serious."
It definitely has reached the serious stage when you consider the Kings are 2-10-1 on the road and have lost six consecutive games away from the Forum and are 1-7 in their last eight games overall. And they are getting shut out with a greater frequency--the third time in 23 games. Last season, the Kings were shut out four times and the third one did not occur until Game No. 62.
For the NHL's scoring leader, Wanye Gretzky, it was the fifth time this season he has gone pointless. Four of his five pointless outings have been on the road.
It was a night where the Kings (9-12-2) played relatively well for two periods, slipped in the third by giving up three goals in a span of 4:05 to fall behind, 4-0, and it ended with humiliation when King defenseman Darryl Sydor flailed away at the Canadiens' Kirk Muller in a one-sided fight with 16 seconds remaining.
Muller tackled Sydor to the ice and then taunted him. Sydor was willing to go but lost decisively.
"If Syd is going to make his living fighting, we're in trouble," King Coach Barry Melrose said, smiling. "Muller is tough. But the kid showed a lot of courage."
Sydor left the ice and slammed the steel curtain to the King dressing room where he joined several angry teammates. Rob Blake was already there, having received a 10-minute misconduct for yapping at replacement referee George McCorry at 19:04, and Alexei Zhitnik was hanging out, too, banished at 12:14 when he received a five-minute major for high-sticking Guy Carbonneau and an automatic game misconduct.
The Kings played the final 16 seconds with two defensemen--Tim Watters and Doug Houda. Huddy was in the penalty box at the end and was upset with the McCorry's officiating.
"I don't mind getting hit, but (teammate) Phil Crowe comes out and all of a sudden he gets a penalty because he's a tough guy," Huddy said. "Come on, if he's going to call it one way. . . . They're refs in their own league. They should call it the same way for both teams."
Melrose, having already received a warning from NHL Vice President Brian Burke, masked his feelings by laughing on the bench and talking sarcastically about the officiating.
When the Kings received a delay of game penalty at 19:04 of the third, Melrose defied the officials by refusing to send a player to the penalty box. The door was held open for a couple of minutes and John Druce started to hop over the King bench but stayed there.
Defenseman Brent Thompson, who played poorly on Thursday in Quebec, and forward Gary Shuchuk were scratches. Center Pat Conacher (strained lower back) sat out but may resume skating on Monday. . . . Forward Tony Granato has not scored in 17 games and has two assists in that span. . . . Several Canadiens broke out of slumps--Gilbert Dionne scored his first goal in 17 games, rookie Pierre Sevigny scored his first NHL goal and center Guy Carbonneau scored for only the second time in 12 games.