The legacy of Michal Handzus, Scott Parse and Ryan Smyth remains intact.
The last Kings team to win nine games in a row included those names, alongside stars Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, back in 2010. This year’s team made a fine run at it, but it ended Tuesday in futile and frustrating fashion, a 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.
The Kings couldn’t get the puck, or those who had it. They allowed two early goals and pursued the game the rest of the way, until their eight-game win streak ended, one shy of that 2010 franchise record. It remains the longest win streak in the NHL this season.
“This loss was coming for a little bit,” defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “We had some big plays where we scored goals the last couple of games. But we have to be better in our preparation and our start. We’re not going to come in and surprise teams. Teams are ready for us, and we have to be ready for them.”
Kings coach John Stevens said the disparity in desire was noticeable, particularly because New Jersey had lost three of four games and hadn’t won at home since before Thanksgiving. The Kings got a third-period goal from Torrey Mitchell, his first with the team, but they were consistently beaten on possession and put a season-low 17 shots on goal.
“One team was really, really hungry and ready and one was complacent,” Stevens said. “I’ll take responsibility for that.”
Stevens said their goaltending had hid some of their mistakes but didn’t think the streak was a mirage. He was disconcerted because “we got checked off the puck four times that ended up in our net.”
New Jersey killed two early penalties and swung the first period back on goals by Travis Zajac and Taylor Hall. Zajac went to the net to follow Brian Gibbons’ centering shot and slammed in a puck that Quick deflected out with his stick. Hall then buried a pass floated cross-ice by Jesper Bratt on the power play.
“We weren’t nearly as intense and sharp as we needed to be,” Kopitar said. “Being in the standings where we are, we’ve got to know teams are going to be ready for us. We weren’t ready tonight, from the get-go.”
Defensive breakdowns led to a 4-0 deficit in the second period. Hall drove center ice, grabbed an exchange from Muzzin to Doughty and beat Quick on a backhand for an unassisted goal. Brian Boyle was alone in the left circle to beat Quick between the legs in front of 13,275 fans.
The Kings will have two days off to assess the damage. That includes a scheduled outdoor practice in New York’s Central Park on Wednesday. Some, um, fresh air — the temperature is supposed to be in the 30s — might do some good.
“We’ve got a couple of days now where we can really regroup,” Kopitar said. “We’re practicing outdoors, and it will hopefully be a boost of energy.”
Kyle Clifford (upper body) was activated off injured reserve and played his first game since Oct.11 … Prospect Jordan Subban, acquired in a trade for Nic Dowd, is day to day with a minor upper-body injury and not yet available to the Ontario Reign, a team official said.