Kings haven’t put it on ice after shootout loss to the Jets
Behind the door, the Kings’ first-round playoff opponent . . . to be determined.
Considering the Kings played their first game of the season on Oct. 7, what’s another day of suspense, right?
Trying to secure a division title — the second in franchise history — against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night at Staples Center in their regular-season finale, the Kings lost in a shootout, 4-3. Earlier in the day, the Ducks, second in the Pacific Division, kept the pressure on by winning at Colorado.
The Jets rallied from a three-goal deficit, and Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec stopped Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli in the shootout. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick denied Blake Wheeler with a poke check before Mark Scheifele won it with a wrist shot.
All this means that the Ducks-Capitals game Sunday at Washington will have significance. Anaheim, trailing the Kings by a point in the Pacific Division, could finish first with a win. If the Kings win the division, they will play the Nashville Predators in the first round. A second-place finish would mean a first-round meeting with the San Jose Sharks.
“It’s unfortunate we let our goalie down tonight,” said Kings left wing Milan Lucic, who had one assist. “We didn’t take care of business to guarantee the Pacific Division. So we’ve got to wait around to see what’s going to happen tomorrow night and go from there.”
It had been all Kings until late in the second period. They came out strong with first-period goals by Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, and Andy Andreoff scored in the second before the Jets rallied. It was Toffoli’s team-leading 31st goal of the season.
“We had the start that we wanted and for whatever reason, we stopped playing,” Kopitar said. “Obviously we made a bunch of turnovers that resulted in their goals. The start was good, but the second and third period were not very good.
“The frustrating part is that we didn’t get the job done tonight. We certainly had every opportunity to win the division and the bottom line [is], we didn’t do it.”
The Kings, who missed the playoffs last season, have won a division title once before when Wayne Gretzky and company captured what was then called the Smythe Division in 1990-91.
This season was highlighted by the excellence of Quick. On Saturday, his shutout bid was ended late in the second period. The Jets found their legs and took advantage with a surge late in the period, scoring twice in the last three minutes. Andrew Copp scored at 17:06 and Nikolaj Ehlers recorded his 15th of the season, cutting the Kings’ lead to 3-2 with 40.8 seconds remaining.
Wheeler tied it, 3-3, with his 26th goal of the season, at 3:21of the third period.
Quick didn’t have much work until late in the second period, and he and the Kings remain in the mix for the William Jennings Trophy with 194 goals allowed. Their two closest competitors are the Capitals (191) and the Ducks (192).
The award goes to “the goalkeeper[s] having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.”
Playoff positioning aside, the Kings were trying to sustain a stronger body of work in the last few days of the regular season. A 2-1 victory over the Ducks on Thursday was a good sign for them, but Saturday’s collapse was not.
“We wanted to build the last three games. We struggled pretty good coming down the stretch,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “We had already clinched a playoff spot but you can’t just flip the switch right away in the playoffs. You want to be playing good hockey even if the wins and losses aren’t looking the best.
“I thought the last game [against the Ducks] was one of our better games since I’ve been here, six, seven weeks. I thought it was real complete game. We just want to build off that. . . . You can’t just hit cruise control and expect to turn it on in Game 1 of the playoffs.”
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter: @reallisa
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