To borrow a football phrase, the Kings just couldn’t make this two-point conversion.
They strung together effective shifts and scored a pretty rush goal. For the most part, they were in the game against the San Jose Sharks on Monday night, in front of a below-average crowd of 15,447 fans at SAP Center with the College Football Playoff championship staged in nearby Santa Clara.
But it was the Sharks who executed better and adhered to their possession game in giving the Kings a 3-1 loss that showed the gap between the top three teams in the Pacific Division and the bottom five. The Kings are last in large part because of an underachieving offense that couldn’t support Jack Campbell’s 26 saves.
“We can’t rely on our goalies to only give up one or two goals every game and expect to win hockey games,” defenseman Drew Doughty said.
“That’s the bottom line. It’s a 3-2 league. We need to be getting two or three goals every night to win.”
Doughty said they didn’t establish enough territory and “when we get away from that, we struggle. The only time they got momentum tonight was when we didn’t handle the puck the right way and make the right plays.”
But the Kings could only blame themselves for a too-many-men penalty with two minutes 20 seconds remaining and the score 2-1.
Joe Thornton scored on an empty net after Tyler Toffoli’s errant pass in the Kings’ end.
Coach Willie Desjardins credited San Jose and cited its depth but didn’t like the special teams’ disparity.
“Probably the difference is, we had three [penalty] kills,” Desjardins said. “If we had power plays the other way... I’m not saying [it’s] the refereeing; it just makes a difference when you’re not on the power play.”
Anze Kopitar scored their only goal on a give-and-go play with Dustin Brown. Kopitar dropped a pass for Brown and went to the net to convert the return pass early in the second period.
San Jose was missing defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun but back-end stars Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns continued to wield their two-pronged attack.
Karlsson assisted on all three goals and became the first player in Sharks history to record a point in 13 straight appearances. He fed Tomas Hertl for a backhand past Campbell’s left arm for a 2-1 lead about halfway through the second period.
Campbell was characteristically hard on himself after his first NHL appearance at SAP Center.
“Difficult team to play against,” Campbell said. “They really zip that puck around and watching on TV or on the bench is a lot different than being out there. I’ve got a lot to learn and get better at. It was a good experience, but I’ve got to get a lot a better, for sure.”
Campbell stopped Evander Kane but Joonas Donskoi put in the rebound for the game’s first goal at 17:43 of the first period. It began with an odd bounce when Ilya Kovalchuk deflected Karlsson’s shot slowly out to Brown, and Brown had the puck go off his shin to Kane.