The Kings’ dressing room was closed for an unusually long time after the game Saturday night. That’s often a sign of a coach reprimanding his players.
But in this case it seemed to be the opposite, judging by the positive outlook from the players and coach John Stevens after a 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators. The Kings found most of their identity against a premier Western Conference team that boasted one of the most active defenses in the NHL. They are firmly in second place in the Pacific Division, and they weren’t going to grade themselves harshly going into their bye week.
“I think we’ve done some good things,” Tanner Pearson said. “There’s some things we’ll probably look at to clean up after the break, but as of right now, we’re in a playoff spot, so that’s a good thing.”
Discipline was an issue against Nashville. The Kings gave the Predators nearly four minutes of power-play time, including a five-on-three advantage, in the first period. One of those penalties was the second unsportsmanlike conduct infraction this season for Drew Doughty, for arguing an interference penalty on Pontus Aberg.
The notoriously emotional Doughty is known to air it out to referees. He was without partner Jake Muzzin, who is on injured reserve, retroactive to Jan.4, after trying to play with an upper-body injury.
“I think Drew was just amped up,” Stevens said. “I think he knew that with Muzz out of the lineup [we were] really going to need him to step up, like he does always, quite honestly. But I think he was frustrated with the call initially. I think in his mind he didn’t say anything, but I think they were reacting to the noise being made going into the box.”
The Kings played catch-up from there and couldn’t get a point out of the contest even after third-period goals by Trevor Lewis and Tyler Toffoli to pull to 3-2 and 4-3.
Stevens used that as a bullet point in an overall improvement from one of their worst games of the season last Thursday against the Calgary Flames. He alluded to the Kings’ 57-25 goal differential in the third period when he discussed the positives.
“Probably the most exciting thing about this group is they have a way to stick around hockey games,” Stevens said. “They have this innate ability to try and win games.”