Talk about a dog day afternoon.
The Kings’ matinee matchup with the St. Louis Blues coincided with an animal care promotion in which dogs were brought out on the ice during first intermission, and in the corridors outside their locker room for a television spot.
The Kings kept the theme going with dog of a performance, a 7-2 loss Saturday that ranked among their biggest debacles of the season. After he broke down some of the goals allowed, Kings coach John Stevens delivered a cutting line that put his team into the doghouse.
“We couldn’t check a hat tonight,” Stevens said.
What made this extra disconcerting was an admitted lack of will, at home, against a team that had lost nine of its previous 10 games.
“The bottom line is they had a little bit more than us in all the areas,” Dion Phaneuf said. “And when you play against a team, especially at this time of the year, in this kind of a race that we’re in, they’re a desperate team, and I believe that we, as a group, have to have more desperation than we did tonight. You can see the result that was handed to us.”
The Kings handed much offensive opportunity to St. Louis with turnovers that led to Blues goals. Fourteen Blues players made the score sheet as St. Louis ran off five straight goals to send the announced crowd of 18,230 out into the gloomy afternoon.
The Kings took 40 shots, but any offensive attack was obliterated by their lack of defense and puck management. Every St. Louis goal was at even strength. Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar were each a minus-4, and Doughty’s partner, Derek Forbort, was minus-5. The Kings remained on message about turning the page but also owned up to this type of loss at Game 68.
“I’ll be honest with you, sometimes getting pummeled 7-1 may be easier than losing 2-1 or 3-2,” Kopitar said. “I don’t think a whole lot needs to be said. I’m sure each and every one of us know what we got to do and we have to play a lot harder and with a lot more emotion than we did today.”
Doughty woke up the building with a terrific give-and-go goal on a pass laid out by Kopitar at the goalmouth to cut the Kings’ deficit to 2-1 nearly seven minutes into the second period.
Then they plummeted.
Doughty’s pass to Jake Muzzin hopped away from Muzzin and St. Louis converted it into Alex Pietrangelo’s goal. Ivan Barbashev split Doughty and Forbort and chopped the puck under Jonathan Quick 26 seconds before second intermission. Forbort lost the puck that led to Vladimir Tarasenko’s goal 26 seconds into the third period, and Kyle Brodziak scored 32 seconds after that to make it 6-1.
The Kings were left out of a playoff spot with no excuses the rest of the way.
“Our fight on the puck was not at a playoff level, if you expect to win this time of year,” Stevens said. “So it’s a little concerning, to be honest with you. You’ve just got to decide as a group, where we’re going to go from here.”