The call that hurt them most came with three seconds left in the third period, when Ryan Smyth redirected a point shot by Jack Johnson into the net. Referee Eric Furlatt immediately waved it off on the grounds Smyth had his stick above the height of the crossbar when he batted the puck, and a lengthy review began that left the crowd at Scotiabank Place on edge.
In the end, NHL executives in Toronto found no evidence to justify overturning the call on the ice and had to let it stand. Jason Spezza's goal at 11:19 of the third period, generated when he jumped off the bench, steamed up the left side and faked around a flat-footed Matt Greene, held up as the winner.
"It was very close. And we took a lot of time hoping for more replays but none came," Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior vice president of hockey operations, said via e-mail.
"When these calls are made regarding high-sticked goals or allowed goals that may have seemed like a high stick we need conclusive [100%] to overturn these calls. We did not have enough video evidence to do this on this review."
The Kings, of course, contended that the goal should have counted but didn't blame robbery for their second loss on this four-game trip.
"We shot ourselves in the foot early on. We had some chances that we should have buried," Smyth said. "It shouldn't have come down to that."
It did, because their power play was one for five and is two for 25 in the last five games and because they again couldn't hold a lead.
They thought they turned a corner Saturday in Boston, when they gutted out a 4-3 shootout victory after surrendering a 3-0 lead. But the Senators, losers of three straight games, found the kind of resilience the Kings couldn't muster.
The Senators also victimized a defense that's desperately missing Willie Mitchell, who's expected to be out another month because of a fractured left wrist. Without his solid shutdown skills Greene, Drewiske and the sixth defenseman — Peter Harrold on Monday — have had to play bigger roles and haven't always been up to it.
"He made a nice move. I've got to stop that, though," Greene said of Spezza's goal. "If I want to play the minutes against a guy like that I've got to be better against him. So that third goal was completely my fault."
When they won, they won as a team. Now 13-7 overall and 5-6 on the road, they're faltering as a group too.
Kopitar's unassisted goal at 16:17 of the first period, made possible when he intercepted a terrible pass by Spezza, matched a power-play blast by Alexei Kovalev at the 10-minute mark that was the Russian winger's 1,000th NHL point.
The Kings thought they took the lead with 44.2 seconds left in the period on a close-in shot by Wayne Simmonds. However, the officials waved it off, ruling the puck crossed the goal line after the net was dislodged. They couldn't take into account what appeared to be a deliberate grab by Ottawa's Matt Carkner to lift the net out of position because that's not reviewable.
"It was a real quick play and it would have been great at the time but we had plenty of opportunities to get it back," Kings Coach Terry Murray said. "We're not taking advantage of those situations right now."
Smyth gave the Kings an uncontested 2-1 lead at 7:52 of the second period with a power-play redirection of a shot by Justin Williams, but Milan Michalek brought the Senators even at 19:04. Daniel Alfredsson took the puck from Jack Johnson, spun the Kings defenseman around like a top and fed Michalek for a quick shot.
The Kings wasted a power play that carried over from the second period to the third and another advantage they gained at 14:04 of the third. That left them at the mercy of the hockey gods.
"We're letting teams back in it where last year we weren't. Killer instinct or whatever it is, I don't know what it is right now," Greene said. "It's just not working and we've got to find that part of our game."