The Kings may have 30 games remaining to try to win a playoff berth, but they’ll need more than that if they keep losing games the way they did Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.
After rushing out to a two-goal first-period lead, the Kings could not hold back the Blackhawks, who scored three unanswered goals for a 3-2 victory before 14,135 at the Forum.
Chicago forward Ulf Dahlen, who was acquired from San Jose last week in the trade for goalie Ed Belfour, scored the game-winning goal with 2:43 remaining in the second period to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 edge against the Kings this season.
With the loss, the Kings, who begin a four-game trip at Calgary on Monday, dropped to 18-28-6 and fell four points behind Chicago, which is also in the hunt for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
King Coach Larry Robinson was not pleased with two mistakes made by captain Rob Blake, who he said cost the team two goals with turnovers in the Kings’ zone.
“Blake was a direct cause of two of [Chicago’s goals],” Robinson said. “All he had to do was clear the puck out. Those are mistakes he can’t be making. He has more experience than anybody out there on defense. He is supposed to be our leader. He has to get his game in gear if we are going to play well.”
Ray Ferraro and Kai Nurminen scored within the first 8 1/2 minutes for the Kings, but the offense faltered down the stretch. Goaltender Byron Dafoe stopped 33 of 36 shots but dropped to 11-9-2. Chicago’s Jeff Hackett improved to 8-10-1 with 25 saves, and Denis Savard and James Black scored the Blackhawks’ other goals.
The Kings began the third period trailing by one goal but were able to get only one shot on goal in the first 14 minutes of the period. Only in the final minutes, when they managed four shots on goal during a power play, did the Kings really pose a threat to Hackett, with Ray Ferraro and Kevin Stevens getting the best scoring chances.
“Things didn’t go our way, it wasn’t that [Chicago] was that bigger than us, we just were outmuscled and outhustled tonight,” Robinson said. “We’ve blown three or four great chances to move up and make some headway. This is very disappointing.”
Ferraro set up the Kings’ first score when he stole the puck from Chicago defenseman Eric Weinrich inside the Kings’ blue line and passed to Ian Laperriere for a 2-on-1 break against the Blackhawks’ Chris Chelios. From the top of the left circle, Laperriere passed to Ferraro, who beat Hackett from the right circle for his 18th goal of the season at 5:18.
The Kings took a 2-0 lead at 8:26 when they scored their first home power-play goal in four games. With Savard in the penalty box for tripping the Kings’ Aki Berg, Nurminen knocked in a rebound of a Rob Blake slap shot for his 12th goal.
Chicago answered 32 seconds later when, from in front of the crease, Savard knocked in a rebound of a Michal Sykora shot at 8:58 to cut the Kings’ lead to 2-1.
The Blackhawks, who had not played since defeating the Rangers at New York on Monday, dominated the second period by outshooting the Kings, 13-8. Dafoe made a couple of great saves against Weinrich and Savard early in the period, but Chicago tied the score, 2-2, when forward Jeff Shantz slashed in on Dafoe and passed to a wide-open James Black, who scored from outside the right post at 9:47.
After a scoreless power play by the Kings and a brilliant save by Dafoe on Chicago’s top scorer, Tony Amonte, the Blackhawks scored the decisive goal when Dahlen fired in his own rebound for his 10th goal of the season. Dahlen also scored the winning goal against the Rangers.
“We had plenty of chances but we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” Eddie Olczyk said. “They took it to us pretty good in the second period. We had good chances in the third.”