Willie Desjardins lingered in the hallway for a few moments after his postgame media session finished. He turned to a team official with a slight shake of his head, a look of exasperation just short of resignation.
The interim Kings coach couldn’t have asked for much more from his team in the third period Monday. They peppered the Detroit Red Wings with 19 shots and held a 43-21 shot advantage for the game. And that was without one of their more offensive-minded defensemen.
That made the 3-1 loss at Little Caesars Arena tougher to swallow and produced a familiar refrain for the Kings: one step forward and two steps back.
After an all-around feel-good win last Saturday, the Kings were too loose in their own end and couldn’t capitalize at the other to make it up.
“You play with fire like that, you know, we don’t score enough goals to play that way,” Jake Muzzin said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Muzzin was without partner Alec Martinez because of an upper-body injury from Saturday, general manager Rob Blake said. The injury is not concussion-related, Desjardins said, and is believed to have occurred on a hit from Ryan Reaves of the Vegas Golden Knights.
It adds to an injury list that includes forwards Ilya Kovalchuk, Carl Hagelin, Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis and goalie Jack Campbell. The Kings have already totaled more than 100 man-games lost to injury.
But that didn’t stop them from putting a season-high 43 shots on Jimmy Howard. Overall, they directed 81 pucks to the net, with 20 missed shots and 18 blocked. The line of Adrian Kempe, Nikita Scherbak and Tyler Toffoli combined for 13 shots. The Kings, though, will lament three two-on-ones in the opening 22 minutes and a skate block by Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson on Matt Luff’s try. Toffoli’s scoring slump hit 13 games.
Their goal was by Anze Kopitar with less than seven minutes remaining. He sent a backhand chip in off Alex Iafallo’s rebound. The loss followed Saturday’s 5-1 win.
“We were looking to build on that and I think we played a good game,” Kempe said. “We just didn’t capitalize enough on our chances. But I think it was a game we definitely should have won.”
Derek Forbort’s turnover led to Detroit’s third goal. He sent a pass up the middle and Dylan Larkin intercepted it, moved around a fallen Drew Doughty and used a backhand-forehand deke to score on Jonathan Quick.
Frans Nielsen put in his own rebound earlier in the period on another play that exposed the Kings’ defense. Defenseman Dennis Cholowski beat Quick high on the blocker side six minutes, 32 seconds into the game, with help from a sly pass from Christoffer Ehn.
The Kings did regroup after that, only to see their 19th regulation loss. Last season, they didn’t take their 19th loss until Feb. 1.
“That happens sometimes,” Desjardins said. “You play good games and you don’t get rewarded. There’s nothing you can do about that. You just have to keep going.”
Sean Walker was recalled as the spare defenseman. Austin Wagner played his fourth game in five nights, split between the Kings and Ontario Reign.
Gabriel Vilardi will be loaned to Canada to be eligible for the World Junior Championships later this month, the team announced. He was cleared from an injury, a team official said, but will be monitored closely.
Vilardi, the organization’s top forward prospect, was unable to complete his conditioning assignment with Ontario last Saturday. He has dealt with chronic back problems since the Kings drafted him 11th last year.
KINGS AT BUFFALO SABRES
When: Tuesday, 4 p.m. PST
On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network)