Third periods continue to be the late-season adversary of the Kings, and that current shortcoming could prove costly in terms of playoff positioning.
They carried a one-goal lead into the third period against the top team in the Western Conference, the Dallas Stars. But the Stars scored twice in the third period — including defenseman Jordie Benn's game-winner with 4:58 remaining — and left Staples Center with a 3-2 victory against the Kings.
It was Benn's first goal in 2016 and his one-timer from the right point was his first game-winning goal, making it 3-2. His younger brother, Jamie, scored with 2.9 seconds left in the first period, on the power play. It was his 41st of the season, and Patrick Eaves had his 11th of the season, at 5:57 of the third period, tying it, 2-2.
Dallas holds an eight-point lead over the Kings in the Western Conference. With four games remaining, the Kings still have the smallest of chances at winning the West, not technically out but remote nonetheless.
They lead the Ducks by a point in the Pacific Division. Anaheim has five games left, and the Kings and Ducks meet at Staples Center on Thursday.
But the Kings aren't occupying themselves with potential playoff opponents, say, Nashville or San Jose. Not yet, at least.
"I don't think we care about who we play," said Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi. "I think we're worried about how we play. I think that's more important at this time of year. ...
"We gave up a lot of chances, a lot of shots, all in the first 10-15 minutes. By the time we came around, we were fortunate that the game wasn't out of hand."
Dallas has won four straight games and seven of its last eight. This was the 700th career regular-season victory for Stars Coach Lindy Ruff.
"I'm looking forward to the next 700," Ruff said.
The surging Stars have suffered two losses in regulation since March 1 — to Arizona on March 31 and the Kings on March 15.
"The Kings don't give up a lot of shots," Ruff said. "For us to get the chances we got, to get the number of shots and the number of chances we got, I thought our guys did a great job."
It was an odd game, often mysteriously officiated, and full of numerous scrums after the whistle. In other words, it was a tough assignment to sustain momentum on Saturday afternoon.
The Kings goals were scored by Tanner Pearson (14th of the season) and Jeff Carter, who put the Kings ahead, 2-1, with a stellar effort, starting the sequence and finishing it, off a nice feed from linemate Tyler Toffoli. It was Carter's 23rd goal of the season.
"Jeff's line was really good again," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. "We scored a four-on-four goal [by Carter]. Five on five through the lineup was not good enough against that type of team."
Kings winger Kris Versteeg returned to the lineup for the first time since March 19, having suffered an injured left foot against Boston. He had two shots on goal and played 9 minutes 26 seconds.
"As the game went on, it started to feel good again," he said. "It was moving pretty quick there at the start, a playoff-type atmosphere."
Their slow start and the lone five-on-five goal for the Kings helped lead to their undoing against the Stars. A lesson for the playoffs?
"I hope it's not a lesson we have to learn this late in the season," Scuderi said. "Hopefully it's a better-late-than-never type of thing."
Said Versteeg: "You always want to play all 60 [minutes] and find ways to contribute. Everyone's got to contribute across the board. But it's going to happen sometimes. That's why you have a goalie like Quickie [Kings' Jonathan Quick]. He still gives you a chance to win. They [the Stars] played a great game too."