Kings Coach Darryl Sutter had one thought after he watched defenseman Drew Doughty skate end-to-end to score the tying goal against the Predators in the third period Tuesday and then saw his six chosen shooters come up empty against Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne in the shootout.
“I should have used him in the shootout,” Sutter said after a 4-3 loss at Bridgestone Arena dropped the Kings’ road record to 1-4-4.
Would he consider it?
“That’s how they scored. They went down the middle of the ice and shot in the middle of the net to win it, and Drew tied it with that,” Sutter said.
Just as Sutter described it, James Neal scored the only goal in the tiebreaker, the first opponent to beat Kings goalie Martin Jones in 18 shootout attempts over three games. When Dwight King was stopped, the Kings had lost their second straight game on this three-game trip and the up-and-coming Predators had improved to 8-1-1 at home.
“It’s a tough building. You need good goaltending,” Sutter said.
The Kings got a fine effort from Jones and from their penalty killers, especially after Robyn Regehr was banished for highsticking 3:28 into overtime. But they were scoreless in three advantages, leaving their power play two for 29 on the road this season, and they gave up goals to Ryan Ellis and Eric Nystrom 52 seconds apart late in the second period to fall behind.
Center Anze Kopitar said it matters less where the Kings play than how well they play.
“We’ve just got to play our game. That’s the most important thing for us,” he said. “On the road this year, we can be honest and we didn’t play nearly as good as we can and as we expect from each other. We’re going to have to play better. Tonight was a step in the right direction but we definitely have more.”
The Predators controlled the play early and scored at 6:24. Colin Wilson sent a pass that put Craig Smith in behind the Kings’ defense, and Smith rifled a wrist shot past Jones. But the Kings pulled even at 11:32. Marian Gaborik passed the puck to Justin Williams, whose shot from the high slot caromed off Jamie McBain’s right foot and past Rinne at 11:32. After review the play was allowed to stand, becoming McBain’s first goal as a King.
Gaborik caught up to a long lead pass from Jeff Carter and beat Rinne high to the glove side to put the Kings ahead, 2-1, 1:01 into the second period but Ellis tied it at 17:36 on a shot from above the right circle, prompting someone to toss a catfish onto the ice. Nystrom deflected a shot by Taylor Beck between Jones’ left leg and the post to give Nashville a 3-2 lead.
Sutter was unhappy with the breakdowns on those plays.
Doughty worked his magic in the first minute of the third period. He gathered the puck in his own end, dodged defenseman Anton Volchenkov and rifled a shot that snaked between Rinne’s pads, all because he recognized that Nashville’s 1-1-3 formation in the neutral zone was giving him room to skate.
“I just saw a lot of ice and tried to get the puck on net,” said Doughty, who played a season-high 33 minutes and 40 seconds. “And I’m happy that went in because I’ve really tried to pick my spots lately and I’m not getting goals that way. To get kind of a fluky one between the legs feels good.”
If he’d gotten a chance in the shootout, where Carter, Gaborik, Kopitar, Toffoli, Jarret Stoll and King were stopped, maybe the Kings wouldn’t have merely one road victory.
“Not happy with that, obviously,” Doughty said. “Joner played a fantastic game tonight. He was great. Especially in the shootout. He gave us three chances in a row to win there. We’ve got to bear down. We’ve got to score.”
KINGS AT MINNESOTA
When: 5 PST.
On the air: TV: FS West. Radio: 790.
Update: Goaltender Jonathan Quick is expected to start for the Kings, who are 1-2-0 in the finale of back-to-back games this season. The Kings won their first game against Minnesota, 2-1, on Oct. 19 at Staples Center. The Wild is 7-1-0 at Xcel Energy Center and has won five of its last six games overall.
Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen