Kings fall to Blues, 6-4, after defensive lapse
Out of 60 shots on net and 10 goals, one play turned the tide Thursday in a scrappy game between two wounded teams.
One play wiped out a comeback by the Kings and led to their 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues, who had lost the night before but had the energy to capitalize on a crucial defensive lapse by the Kings.
The Kings, who began the game without defenseman Matt Greene — wobbly from a hard hit on Monday — and lost defenseman Willie Mitchell to a lower-body injury early in the second period, looked to be in control in the final period at the Scottrade Center.
They had pulled even at 4-4 late in the second period and put pressure on Blues goaltender Ty Conklin, but Anze Kopitar lost an offensive zone faceoff to Jay McClement and the Blues broke the other way. That set off a sequence in which defensemen Alec Martinez and Drew Doughty gave the Blues too much room and the Kings’ forwards forgot their defensive responsibilities.
McClement carried the puck into the Kings’ zone and had the puck poked away by Martinez, but it came back to Alexander Steen, who beat Jonathan Quick with two minutes 53 seconds left in the final period. David Backes scored into an empty net to leave the Kings with a split of the first two games of their five-game trip.
Hostilities broke out late, with Jack Johnson and Justin Williams getting misconduct penalties as the Kings vented their annoyance after going from the sublime — a 51-save effort by Quick in a 5-0 victory Monday at Detroit — to the inconsistent.
“It’s tough to win games when you don’t have everyone playing and you can’t roll over shifts,” Dustin Brown said.
“We need everyone to play to their ability. If they can’t or they’re having a bad game at least make the simple plays. We had some turnovers and there’s not enough battle in our game right now.”
Until there’s enough battle in every period of every game they will continue to fight for traction in the tough West.
“It’s frustrating for sure,” winger Ryan Smyth said. “As a group everybody’s got to buy in. I think it’s important we stick to the game plan, do the little things right and you’re going to get the results.
“We knew these guys played last night and we let up. We can’t do that.”
They should have been inspired after goals by Wayne Simmonds, from the lower edge of the left circle at 15:53 of the second, and Brown, at 17:20 off a shot by Rob Scuderi, erased the Blues’ 4-2 lead.
They had a power play early in the third and couldn’t score but were still doing a lot of things right.
“It felt like we had a lot of good chances. One breakdown in the third and they score a goal,” Brown said. “But at the end of the day we didn’t play very good in the first 40, so something’s got to change here.”
Kings Coach Terry Murray said he had no immediate report on Mitchell, but losing Mitchell again would be a tough blow. The Blues lacked three top defensemen and three premier forwards but managed to compete hard and win. The Kings competed hard most of the time.
The Kings scored first, on Smyth’s power-play redirection of a shot by Johnson at 16:59 of the first period, but McClement matched that at 18:45.The Kings took the lead on a five-on-three goal by Kopitar from 40 feet, but the physical and persistent Blues produced goals by Vladimir Sobotka, Brad Winchester on a redirection and Eric Brewer on a slap shot at 15:07 of the second.
The Kings caught up but never regained the lead.
“I thought we had really good spurts in the third period and a few breakdowns,” Kopitar said after extending his point streak to six games.
“That’s what happens in this league. You’ve got to play consistent for 60 minutes. Or at least know the situation in the game. We can’t have breakdowns like that in the third period.”