For the Kings, this was not even close to being as smooth as they were during their seven-game winning streak last month. But it was not nearly as bumbling as their performance in a one-sided loss to the Arizona Coyotes in the second game of the regular season.
Tuesday's progress report landed somewhere in the middle ground — closer to the latter than the former — as the Kings were undone by errors in their 3-2 loss to the Coyotes at Staples Center. It was a night in which they also honored their longtime radio voice Nick Nickson, who on Monday received the Foster Hewitt award for excellence in hockey broadcasting
The winning goal came with 8:13 remaining in regulation by Coyotes forward Brad Richardson, a former King, as Arizona took advantage of coverage issues by the Kings down low. Among those issues was Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb losing his stick and scrambling to recover in the sequence leading up to the goal.
Jordan Martinook of the Coyotes beat Kings center Anze Kopitar to the puck coming out of the right corner and flicked a backhand pass, which Richardson, a member of the Kings' Stanley Cup winning team in 2012, redirected past Jonathan Quick. Richardson
That gave the Coyotes a 3-2 lead, their first of the game, as the Kings had leads of 1-0 and 2-1. Scoring for the Kings were captain Dustin Brown, at 5:54 of the first period, to make it 1-0 and Tyler Toffoli's power-play goal at 5:00 of the second period, giving the Kings a 2-1 lead.
"We've just got to have that killer instinct," Brown said. "We had some chances at 1-0 and 2-1 to go up and that changes the dynamics of the game."
The goals were notable in that it was Brown's first goal in 15 games and Toffoli's team-leading 10th of the season. They've scored on the power play in their last four games and five of six.
The win by Arizona capped off victories on back-to-back nights over the Ducks and the Kings. Martin Hanzal scored the other two goals for the Coyotes and his first was a gift from McNabb, whose outlet landed right on the stick of Hanzal. Hanzal, who has 13 assists, this season, scored his first goal since January of last season.
"We struggled on our D-zone tonight, for whatever reason," Brown said. "That's something we are normally pretty solid on and that's what you've got to focus on.
"When we're winning and we're playing well, we're not giving up chances. We're much cleaner in our own zone."
There was an underlying subplot unfolding with the San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau, a player with a long back story with Kings GM Dean Lombardi and Kings Coach Darryl Sutter. Marleau was drafted by Lombardi when Lombardi was the GM in San Jose and played for Sutter when Sutter coached the Sharks.
Marleau apparently would agree to lifting his no-trade clause trade to one of three teams: the Ducks, the Kings or the New York Rangers, according to a report by CSN Bay Area.
The list, in fact, should be more like two teams. Marleau's cap hit is $6.66 million this season and the next and the Ducks long have had a public stance of not spending to the cap. Those familiar with their thinking said Tuesday that in-season philosophy had not changed. The Kings, at this point, don't have the room and would have to make some if they were inclined to pursue the acquisition.