Maybe a little outrage can jump-start the L.A. Kings
Darryl Sutter has been positive and encouraging during his nine games as the Kings’ coach, choosing to motivate players with a pat on the back instead of screaming in their faces.
Maybe it’s time for the Kings to experience the Wrath of Sutter.
Their listless 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets before an unhappy crowd at Staples Center on Saturday shouldn’t pass without a few loud and choice words from Sutter. Fans didn’t spare their jeers after the Kings failed to capitalize on 13 minutes 36 seconds of power-play time over eight advantages, including a five-on-three early in the third period and a six-on-four at the end.
“It was a power-play game. It’s not a secret,” center Anze Kopitar said after the Kings’ first regulation loss since Sutter replaced Terry Murray. “We lost the game because we didn’t score on the power play.”
Or score at all in 31 shots at Curtis Sanford. Jarret Stoll, after noting it was crucial for the Blue Jackets to score the first goal, had to laugh after being reminded it was the only goal.
“Usually is around here, isn’t it?” he said.
Sad but true.
This was the Kings’ third 1-0 game in their last five, and they’ve prevailed in only one. They’ve also scored two regulation goals or fewer in 19 of their past 21 games, reducing their league-worst average to 2.02 goals.
Their power play has converted one of 31 chances in the last seven games, two of 38 over the last nine, and three of 61 over their last 16. Their power-play efficiency is 13.2%, 29th in the NHL.
Then again, Columbus brought into Saturday’s game the league’s 29th-ranked penalty killing but emerged unscathed. The Blue Jackets were credited with 20 blocked shots and played as if a playoff berth depended on it, although the only way they’ll witness postseason play is if they buy tickets.
“It doesn’t matter what they rank. You’ve got to score,” Stoll said. “You’ve got to play the same way against the No. 1 penalty kill team in the league.
“It’s a very fine line out there. It’s a very fine line to score, not to score. To win by one, lose by one. We’ve just got to find more ways, better ways to score and put it in.”
Columbus scored at 11:25 of the second period, a few seconds after the Kings had survived a disadvantage and sustained a penalty-killing streak that now stands at 34. David Savard, stationed at the point, passed to Derick Brassard, whose cross-ice pass found Grant Clitsome venturing in from the point. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick couldn’t move quickly enough to his right to stop Clitsome’s rising shot.
Quick wasn’t tested often — he faced 18 shots, only four in the third period — but he did his job. The Kings’ scorers didn’t do theirs.
“He’s given us a chance every single game,” Kopitar said. “At home, if he gives up one, we should be able to win the game and, obviously, score more than one goal. It shouldn’t be a problem, but it is a problem right now, so we have to fix it.”
Whether they can fix it from within is the next question. They will be without concussion-stricken winger Simon Gagne indefinitely, and winger Dustin Penner’s status is unclear after he missed Saturday’s game because of a sore back. General Manager Dean Lombardi undoubtedly is making and taking calls, but it’s difficult to trade big contracts in a salary-cap system, and any player good enough to make an impact would carry a big price tag.
In the meantime, Sutter said he doesn’t intend to display the nasty side of his personality.
“We did everything we wanted to do except score on the power play, so I don’t think you beat them up over that, right?” he said.
That’s a rather large “except.” If he won’t get angry, someone else in that locker room should.
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