What a difference a missed chance makes.
All the Kings needed was one standings point to stay in a third-place guaranteed playoff spot in the Pacific Division. They got tantalizingly close in the final seconds on great looks by Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar.
But … stop if you’ve heard this before … they didn’t start on time. They chased the game from puck drop and wound up short with a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on Saturday.
Here’s what we learned:
The poor starts are really costing them now. Pontus Aberg was free to backhand home the puck from behind the goal line just 45 seconds into the game. Kings coach John Stevens argued that the Oilers iced the puck beforehand but acknowledged it was a moot point.
The Kings have been outscored 72-47 in the first period this season, the lopsided half to their plus-37 third-period goal differential.
“I was on the ice” for that first goal, Tanner Pearson said. “When you let a goal in on the second shift of the game, that’s not the start you want. You have to climb uphill right from the get-go; it makes the game a lot tougher.”
Is returning home a good thing? The Kings won’t have to leave Southern California for the final six games of the regular season, with five games at Staples Center and one at the Ducks.
One can argue that works against them, considering the Kings are 22-14-4 away from home, opposed to 19-14-3 at Staples Center. But teams will always choose sleeping in their own beds and being in their own routine.
The remaining dates include a huge four-point game at the Ducks on Friday and a three-game finish against the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars.
In other words: Buckle your seat belts.
The Jeff Carter line was a silver lining. It might be just a short experiment, but the line of Carter, Pearson and Tobias Rieder has made a case to stay together with three goals and five assists in the last two games.
The three combined for a terrific goal off Pearson’s takeaway in the second period. Rieder has come alive after a mostly quiet first month with the Kings, and the puck continues to find Carter.
The lines could get shuffled again, with Trevor Lewis returning, but this is something the Kings can certainly turn back to down the line.