The dead silence lasted only momentarily, and it took on a somber tone as it came down in Staples Center.
The last thing the Kings need is an injury to goalie Jonathan Quick. Not after last season was essentially lost when he went down in the opener. So the pall among the announced crowd of 18,230 was understandable when Quick appeared hurt early in the second period Saturday.
He reached for his left leg after the puck hit the back of it during a crash in his crease, but he stayed in the game after a visit from the trainer as the pulse returned to the arena.
The Kings came back to life, too, but will go into the mandatory week off with two straight regulation losses after falling to the Nashville Predators 4-3. They fell behind early in a whistle-happy game, and even third-period goals by Trevor Lewis and Tyler Toffoli to get them to 3-2 and 4-3 weren’t enough for the comeback.
Kings coach John Stevens couldn’t criticize his team much after it ran into one of the better defensive opponents in the league — kind of a version of itself.
“I thought it was going to be a tough game there,” Stevens said. “I think they’re as good a team as there is in the Western Conference, and I thought it was a really good measuring stick for us.
“It just felt like we had some self-inflicting wounds with discipline early. It seems like every time we climbed back in, we got further behind. Still, again, that’s the area that we really need to clean up.”
Stevens started Quick for the eighth straight game even though Quick was 5-8-2 in his career against Nashville. Backup Darcy Kuemper, meanwhile, improved to 3-1-1 against the Predators on Nov. 4.
But Quick stood no chance anyway when Nashville took a 3-1 lead on second-period goals by Austin Watson and Scott Hartnell, both on the rush. An open Hartnell backhanded Ryan Johansen’s pass when three Kings were drawn to one side. Fewer than five minutes later, Watson finished a three on two with a snapped shot into an open net, off P.K. Subban’s pass.
Most of the scoring unfolded after a penalty-filled start that prevented any kind of a flow between the heavy forechecking teams. Pressure allowed the Kings to tie the score 1-1 on Adrian Kempe’s 13th goal this season. Kempe got the puck from Subban, who fanned on his passing attempt in Nashville’s end, skated in and beat Pekka Rinne low.
Already missing defenseman Jake Muzzin because of an upper-body injury, the Kings got out of the first period down 1-0 after they killed a two-man advantage during nearly four minutes of power-play time for Nashville. Drew Doughty took a double-minor for interference and unsportsmanlike conduct and, as he fumed about it in the penalty box, Dustin Brown took a tripping penalty on Kyle Turris. Roman Josi got Nashville on board with a point shot toward the end of the advantage.
“We took too many penalties,” Lewis said. “We’ve just got to learn from that and stay a little more disciplined. But I like the way we came back and battled back. Everyone was putting in the effort, for sure.”