King Pain Multiplied Eightfold
The Kings’ playoff hopes ended because their losing streak didn’t.
What had been obvious became official Monday night when the Kings lost to the Colorado Avalanche, 2-1, and were eliminated from playoff contention in front of a crowd of 18,007 at Pepsi Center.
Teemu Selanne broke a 19-game scoring drought with 5:09 left in the third period, and the Kings lost an eighth consecutive game for the first time since a similar slump near the end of the 1983-84 season.
With three games to play, the Kings are seven points behind the Edmonton Oilers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Kings controlled their own playoff destiny less than two weeks ago, but their March 16 loss to the St. Louis Blues dropped them from eighth to ninth in the West and triggered their losing streak.
The Kings didn’t recover in time to save a season that has offered a little of everything -- the good (a long-lasting playoff flirtation despite countless injuries), the bad (a 14-game winless streak at midseason) and the ugly (the current losing streak).
“The only thing that stands out right now is the ugly,” King captain Mattias Norstrom said. “We were standing there with 10 games to go, with a chance to make it to the playoffs and we go on the longest losing streak of the season. In a few days, maybe you can see the positives, but right now not making the playoffs is the only thing that stands out.”
Colorado had scored only seven goals during a dreadful 0-5-1 slump but looked better Monday even though its second-leading scorer, Alex Tanguay, sat out because of a sprained knee.
Matthew Barnaby got the Avalanche going at 11:14 of the first period with his fourth goal in 10 games since being acquired from the New York Rangers. But goaltender Roman Cechmanek kept the Kings in the game with kick saves, stick saves and just about everything else. He had 16 saves in the second period and finished with 31.
“Roman was very good,” King Coach Andy Murray said. “It looks like he’s quieter, less movement.”
The Kings tied it with a power-play goal at 15:46 of the second period. Trent Klatt skated out from the corner, drew Milan Hejduk toward him and fed Nathan Dempsey at the far post for a tap-in.
But Selanne scored the goal that would end the Kings’ playoff chances, just when it looked like the game might trickle into overtime. Paul Kariya tracked down a long rebound of Adam Foote’s shot from the point and fed Selanne with a quick cross-ice pass for a one-timer.
The goal was Selanne’s first point since Feb. 14.
“We have a way of helping guys get out of slumps,” said Murray, who has been stuck in a rut of his own since March 14, when he tied Bob Pulford for the team record of 178 career coaching victories.
In a season when the Kings have lost 608 man-games to injury, an unofficial NHL record, it seemed symbolic that another player, Derek Armstrong, left in the first period after aggravating a right triceps injury he sustained Saturday against the Calgary Flames. Armstrong will undergo MRI tests today in Los Angeles.
As they have all season, the Kings opted not to use excuses.
“We found a way the whole year to hang in there, to get ties and get points and find a way to battle to the very end,” Norstrom said. “That’s what makes it so disappointing about the losing streak we’re on at this time of year.”
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The Murray Years
A look at how the Kings have fared since Andy Murray became coach before the 1999-2000 season:
*--* SEASON RECORD POINTS 1999-2000 39-27-12-4 94 * Finish: Fifth in Western Conference * Playoffs: Lost in first round to Detroit 2000-01 38-28-13-3 92 * Finish: Seventh in Western Conference * Playoffs: Lost in second round to Colorado 2001-02 40-27-11-4 95 * Finish: Eighth in Western Conference * Playoffs: Lost in first round to Colorado 2002-03 33-37-6-6 78 * Finish: 10th in Western Conference * Playoffs: Did not qualify 2003-04 28-27-16-8 80 * Standing: 10th in Western Conference * Playoffs: Did not qualify
Note: Kings have three games remaining this season.