As the Kings’ playoff hopes begin to fade in the distance like a pair of receding taillights, the team is left to ponder several missed opportunities. Here are just three from Monday’s 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues, a result that left the Kings five points out of a postseason berth with 14 games to play:
1. The Kings had 39 shots on goal. Just one of them got past the Blues’ Jake Allen.
“We couldn’t put the puck in the net,” Kings’ Coach Darryl Sutter said. “We did a lot of good things, just couldn’t finish it.”
The Kings had 21 shots in the second period alone, but Allen stood his ground until Sutter pulled his goaltender with three minutes to go and Dustin Brown shoved the puck under Allen during a scramble in front of the net. That did little more than set up a wild finish, however, one that saw the Blues get their final goal into an empty net.
“When you are not capitalizing on your chances and the other team’s goalie is making big saves … it gives the other team momentum,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “They feel like nothing is going to get by their goalie, and they are playing well defensively.”
On the other end, the Kings’ Jonathan Quick was equally as stout, giving up a pair of freakish goals. On the first, St. Louis’ David Perron dug the puck out from under Quick and pushed it into the net, while on the second, Quick and his defense blocked two shots only to have the third try in the sequence bounce off a defender to the Blues’ Magnus Paajarvi, who knocked it in.
The loss was the first in regulation for Quick since he returned from injury last month.
2. The special teams, so good as of late, weren’t very special Monday.
The penalty kill came into Monday with a league-leading 94.3% kill rate over the last 21 games, but the Blues beat it on their second try, with Paajarvi scoring the game-winner with Jeff Carter in the box for holding. And the power play, which had produced nine of the team’s last 14 goals, was held scoreless on three opportunities.
“I don’t think our power play was at the level it needed to be, and obviously they got one on the power play so that was the difference,” captain Anze Kopitar said.
St. Louis’ special teams are pretty good in their own right. The Blues have the top power play in the Western Conference, while their penalty kill ranks fourth.
3. Instead of closing the gap in the playoff race, the Kings saw the deficit grow.
With the win, the Blues established a comfortable wild-card lead over the Kings with less than a month left in the season. To close that gap, the Kings need to gain more than a point a week on St. Louis, which plays eight of its final 14 games against teams that are below .500.
That will be difficult — but not impossible.
“Best part about this game, we play again tomorrow,” Sutter said of Tuesday’s match with Arizona. “If we win, it looks good again [in the standings].”