The Kings (19-16-4) followed a home-and-home sweep of the San Jose Sharks with a listless 4-0 loss to the Red Wings (17-17-5) at Staples Center on Thursday night.
Here is what we learned from the game:
New year but not new consistency
The Kings have not won more than two games in a row since a five-game winning streak in late November.
Successive victories against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks felt like a deviation from the team's season-long inconsistency. But then Thursday's loss offered more of the same.
"It's not what we want to obviously be doing. We want to be winning games. Obviously you're going to lose one here or there," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said after the loss. "... We want to put a string of wins together, that's the bottom line. When you're losing two, winning two you're never going to make any ground in the playoff run."
The Kings are clinging to the Western Conference's final playoff spot. Their loss to the Red Wings was the fifth time they have been shut out this season, once more than all of last year, and came after they gave up three first-period goals and generated few good scoring opportunities.
Carter or nothing
Speaking of scoring opportunities, the Kings have rarely cashed in on them unless Jeff Carter's been involved.
Carter was the team's offensive catalyst in the home-and-home sweep of the Sharks, scoring the game-winner on Saturday before he was in on both of the Kings' goals (a goal and assist) in Tuesday's overtime win in San Jose. He is second in the league with 21 goals, while the Kings' next highest scorer (Tanner Pearson) has 10. Carter did not make his way onto the score sheet against the Red Wings and the offense faltered because of it.
"Jeff Carter has kind of been carrying this team for us," Kings center Jordan Nolan said. "It seems when he doesn't get a goal or whatever it may be, no one steps up and fills that void."
Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, two known scorers who play on a line with Dustin Brown, have not done their part offensively. Gaborik has scored once in 17 appearances. Kopitar has not scored since a loss to the Sabres in Buffalo on Dec. 13 and has just two assists since.
"[Goalie Peter Budaj] has been great for us and [Carter] has been great," Nolan continued. "And we just need more from lots of other guys."
Budaj was not in net against the Red Wings after appearing in 33 of the Kings' last 38 games.
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter turned to Jeff Zatkoff for his first start since a 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas on Dec. 23. Zatkoff allowed a goal on the Red Wings' first shot and two more before the first-period horn.
The goals were not all Zatkoff's fault, but his save percentage of 81.8 was certainly not good enough. He began the game with a save percentage of 89.2 in nine appearances.
"Save percentage is really important," Sutter said at the Kings' morning skate on Thursday. "… We're a team that doesn't give up many shots, so if our goalie, we just came off four games where we probably gave up a total, five-on-five, not many scoring chances."
That was largely the case on Thursday as the Red Wings put just 22 shots on goal. The problem was that four of them found the back of the net.