If this is officially the dog days of the Kings’ season, they were dogged by the same old issues.
In a trend that’s bit them countless times, they got phenomenal saves by Jonathan Quick to keep the game close, only to drown in their inability to help him out at both ends of the ice.
That was again on display Thursday in a 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues at Staples Center. Quick made two clutch stops in the first half of the game before the Blues ran away with two scores in the final two minutes of the second period.
It was a case study of two clubs who fired their coach in the fall: The Kings’ lost for the 12th time in 13 games, while the Blues marched further into postseason contention with their 19th win in 26 games. St. Louis prevailed on its second game in as many nights under interim coach Craig Berube, while the Kings dropped to 20-27-7 under interim coach Willie Desjardins.
“It’s getting to the point where we just need to stick together, and we can’t let one breakdown turn into two,” Tyler Toffoli said. “We’ve got to find a way to … bounce back instead of falling back.”
They were a smattering of boos at the end of the second period and final horn, and probably for good reason. The Kings looked a step behind and sometimes helpless to stop the St. Louis in transition. Jake Allen made a terrific save on Adrian Kempe to secure the shutout.
“I think we were slow,” Desjardins said. “We were trying to get up on them. We’re trying to go one way and they were quick. They were going the other way. They were catching us. It wasn’t a good effort on our part. That wasn’t good enough for us. They’re a good team. They play well. But that’s not good enough from us.”
Quick kept it scoreless in the first period with phenomenal paddle stop reminiscent of his save on Jason Dickinson of the Dallas Stars last week. Outstretched toward the goal post, Quick reached back and laid his stick down just in time to deny Tyler Bozak on a puck that caromed off the end boards.
Quick somehow nearly topped that with a left-to-right sliding pad save on Brayden Schenn to keep it 1-0 in the second period.
The Kings had an opening to tie it shortly after when Brendan Leipsic broke in on a breakaway, but the play was whistled dead on offside, although replays showed Leipsic’s skate on the blue line when the puck entered the zone.
Quick could do only so much the rest of the way as the Blues grinded to keep plays alive and established time in the offensive zone. It was that hustle that resulted in the Blues’ second goal when Joel Edmundson gloved a puck down and set up Bozak for a shot that trickled through Quick late in the second period.
St. Louis stretched it to 3-0 on a slick rush finished by Ryan O’Reilly’s redirect of Schenn’s pass with 1.1 seconds remaining in the second period. The play was a picture of chemistry by the Blues’ top line of Schenn, O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, who combined for two goals and three assists.
The Kings offered little resistance from there in a reversal of some resiliency they showed earlier in the season.
“I think we’re trying,” Toffoli said. “It’s just those breakdowns are catching up. Tonight alone, I think that’s more odd-man rushes than I’ve seen in the game in a long time. That’s not a way for any team to be successful, and no way for any team to stick together, because that creates problems, and creates panic coming back into the zone and gives the other team more space.”