Marked by an energy level that winger Dustin Brown noted “wasn’t very good,” the Kings’ 3-1 loss Saturday to the Nashville Predators at Staples Center appeared just as lifeless in the team’s dressing room afterward.
Most players had already packed their bags and left once members of the media arrived. The only ones left? That included center Anze Kopitar, who was gathering his gear. Then there was Brown, who was serving his captaincy by explaining to reporters the disparity between the Kings’ (10-5-2) loss and their previous eight games, in all of which they collected a point.
Brown called factors such as the 1 p.m. start or the team’s high spirits following Thursday’s victory against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins as “excuses.”
“We have a pretty good team in here, but if we’re not going to work, we’re not going to be better than any team in this league,” said Brown, who scored the Kings’ lone goal at 8:25 in the third period on a power play. “It’s just about work. We didn’t have enough guys or very many guys at all working consistently.”
The Kings lost 29 of 47 faceoffs. Although Kopitar’s third-period assist gave him a league-leading 27 points through Saturday afternoon, the top line featuring Kopitar, Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams didn’t generate a goal for only the second time this season. Defensemen Jack Johnson and Sean O’Donnell each finished with minus-2 ratings. Meanwhile, Nashville (7-7-1) was without its leading scorer, J.P. Dumont (upper body injury), and leading defenseman Shea Weber (foot injury).
The Kings failed to convert on a five-on-three power play to open the second. The Predators scored on theirs, though. Nashville defenseman Francis Bouillon scored on a Cody Franson shot that rebounded off the boards on the left side of the net at 16:38 for a 1-0 lead.
The Kings trailed after two periods for the seventh time this season and didn’t respond in the same fashion as they did in their previous two games.
Franson’s goal gave the Predators a 2-0 lead at 4:52 in the third period. Though Brown netted a power-play goal at 8:25 to make it 2-1, Nashville winger Joel Ward answered quickly at 9:45 to put Nashville back ahead by two. The Kings had no answer for Nashville goaltender Dan Ellis, who stopped 27 of 28 shots.
“They beat us from the dots to the boards in every area of the ice,” Kings Coach Terry Murray said. “They pulled back off the boards in our zone making plays, took it to the net. In the offensive zone we were not able to get the puck stopped up. Our forecheck was inconsistent and we were not able to pull pucks off boards and make plays.”
Despite the Kings’ poor performance, Murray said he didn’t plan to make today’s practice any more demanding because “it’s not about a matter of punishing anybody now.” With the Kings embarking on a five-game road swing beginning Monday at Chicago, Brown said the solution is simple.
“That stretch of eight games, we got points and that was all a result of working and doing the right things,” Brown said. “Tonight we got away from that. I don’t know why. We just didn’t work hard enough. If we worked hard enough, we’d win that game.”