Maybe the upcoming pause in the action will revive the Kings in much the same way the long Olympic break did last season.
Unfortunately, there aren’t 20 days between games, only because of All-Star festivities and then a game against Chicago on Jan. 28.
Could they use the 20 days? Well …
It has become abundantly clear the Kings are in dire need of a fix after host San Jose beat them, 4-2, on Wednesday night. The Sharks were led by center Logan Couture, who had a hand in three of the four goals, scoring twice and recording one assist.
The Kings have won only three times since the Christmas break and are 5-9-6 on the road. Road woes have been a constant issue from the start.
The Kings’ malaise deepened just when they had the chance to move past Calgary, which lost at Anaheim. They still trail the Flames by a point for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference and fell four points behind their divisional rival, the Sharks.
Their penalty-killing efforts came up short. San Jose put it away with their power play, going two for three on the man advantage, scoring once in the second period and again in the third. On both, defenseman Drew Doughty was in the penalty box.
The Sharks went ahead, 3-1, at 8 minutes 27 seconds of the third period after Doughty went off for high sticking Couture. Even a broken play worked to the Sharks’ advantage as Patrick Marleau couldn’t handle the rebound but Joe Pavelski was on hand to convert.
It is the first time since Dec. 4 that the Sharks have scored two power-play goals in a game.
“We’ve got to do a better job in certain areas,” defenseman Robyn Regehr said. “Tonight, the penalty kill, you can’t afford to give up two power-play goals against and expect to win too many games, especially on the road. It’s a tough hole to dig yourself out of when that happens.”
This one stayed close until the third period only because of goalie Jonathan Quick, who was celebrating his 29th birthday. He deserved a better outcome, keeping the Kings in it as the Sharks came strong with numerous outnumbered attacks. His best save came with less than five minute remaining in the second period as he denied Pavelski’s redirection to keep the score tied, 1-1.
But shortly thereafter, the Sharks converted their first of two power-play goals.
Doughty had gone to the penalty box for hooking Pavelski and the Sharks went ahead, 2-1, at 16:39. Marleau got it past Quick, tipping Couture’s shot from the circle.
The Kings’ first goal came in the second period at 11:39 from Dustin Brown, via a wraparound, as goalie Antti Niemi had issues with his footing at the right post and was unable to move over to cover the left post.
For Brown, it was his eighth goal of the season and the assists went to Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar.
With the Kings pushing hard late, forward Jeff Carter scored his 12th goal of the season, with 23 seconds left in regulation.
Rookie Nick Shore had the second assist for his first NHL point.
Now the Kings head into the All-Star break searching for solutions.
“I think we can all just do a better job,” Regehr said. “Whether it’s the guys that have to be physical or throwing more checks or being harder to play against. Or the skilled guys that need to hang on to pucks, take pucks to the net or score big goals.
“Or the penalty kill that has to kill a big penalty or two. The power play. ... It’s all part of the game. I think we can improve in all those area. I don’t think there’s anything that we can look in the mirror and say that we’re doing a great job in this area.”