For Kings coach John Stevens the loss of forwards Trevor Lewis to the injured reserve list and Dustin Brown to a suspension for Tuesday’s game in Carolina created an opportunity for someone on his roster to step up.
Instead the Kings collectively took a huge step back, getting blasted by the Hurricanes 7-3. It was their second consecutive loss on a seven-game trip that could go a long way toward determining their playoff future.
So about an hour after the game the Kings called in the cavalry, completing a trade with Ottawa that netted them Dion Phaneuf, the veteran defenseman they needed, in exchange for forward Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore. The Kings also got former Ducks center Nate Thompson.
The deal is also something of a salary dump for the Kings, who rid themselves of more than $15 million remaining on Gaborik’s contract, which runs through 2021. In addition, Ottawa will pay a quarter of the more than $21 million remaining on Phaneuf’s contract, which also runs through 2021, to keep the Kings under the salary cap.
To get the Senators to agree to the deal, the Kings had to include Shore, a defensive forward.
The trade overshadowed a performance the team would just as soon like to forget anyway. The Kings were outshot 18-3 in the first period, outscored 5-0 in the first 30 minutes and matched a season high by giving up three power-play goals before the middle of the second period.
If that wasn’t bad enough, in the game’s first 22 minutes they gave up a hat trick to defenseman Justin Faulk, who had four goals in 56 games at the start of the night.
“It was embarrassing,” said Anze Kopitar, who had a goal and an assist late in the second period to briefly give the Kings some life. “It’s been an issue to put together a 60-minute effort. And that’s what we need to think about — and correct it in a hurry.”
The first period was arguably the Kings’ worst of the season, with Jaccob Slavin beating Kopitar on a breakaway for the first goal and Justin Williams wrestling the puck away from two Kings along the boards to set up the second, on a slap shot from Faulk on the point.
Faulk’s next two goals — one in the first period, one in the second — came on power plays. That marked the end of the night for Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who gave up four or more goals for the third time in his last four starts. All four goals he allowed Tuesday came from defensemen.
“It’s hard to evaluate him in some of the games we played. Vancouver, Nashville and this game tonight. The three worst games we’ve played all year,” Stevens said. “I’m not going to sit here and isolate any one player. This is a whole disappointing team effort.”
By the time Jeff Skinner beat backup Darcy Kuemper on a power play 6:25 later to make it 5-0, the Kings’ penalty kill, which started the game ranked second in the NHL, had fallen to fourth.
“They showed up to work and we didn’t. Pretty simple,” Stevens said. “I actually thought we had a great first shift. But then it was all downhill from there.
“We need some guys to step up, assume some responsibility on our team. You’ve got to be ready to work. They worked, we didn’t. And we got the result we deserved.”
Then afterward, they got the trade they wanted.
Phaneuf, 32, a 13-year NHL veteran and three-time all-star, has played with Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa but has been traded twice in the last three seasons.
“It’s disappointing when you do get moved. But with saying that, I’m very excited about where I’m going,” Phaneuf said. “I’m excited about the team that they have, where they’re at in the standings.
“There’s a lot of different emotions. It’s an exciting time for me to think about being a Los Angeles King.”
Thompson, 33, has also toured the league, playing for Boston, the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay as well as Anaheim and Ottawa, which signed him as a free agent in July. Thompson has missed four straight games with a lower-body injury.
Gaborik, who turned 36 on Wednesday, has played sparingly of late and has just seven goals and seven assists on the season. Shore, 25, has four goals and has already matched a career high with 11 assists.
Phaneuf and Thompson were with the Senators in Pittsburgh, where Ottawa lost to the Penguins. They stayed in the city to greet their new team, which arrived just after midnight.