Trot out the old line that close is only good enough when playing horseshoes.
The Kings put bits and pieces of their game together Tuesday, then gave it right back because of holes that still need to be patched up. They went from Anze Kopitar’s glowing fist-pump goal to skating off the ice in silence in a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
They showed signs that the situation is fixable, but sunk deeper into a five-game losing streak that could produce consequences if it’s not rectified soon.
Here’s what we learned:
Their best players need to be better. That’s been obvious for some time, and the players know it. They know that changes are coming if they don’t snap out of this and show signs of turning things around — amid speculation around the league that the Kings are old and slow and not suited to today’s NHL.
Last season, at this juncture, the Kings were 7-1-1. That honeymoon with coach John Stevens is over, and the leadership group realizes that.
“You lose games, it’s frustrating, so I don’t know,” he said. “We were better tonight. We created some more and still [we have] a lot more to give.”
It might be time to send a message. Stevens has not scratched any of his regulars, but it might be time for that kind of shakeup.
Tanner Pearson hasn’t scored in 22 games, including last season’s playoffs, and has been moved up and down the lines to little effect. Adrian Kempe has more minor penalties (seven) than points (two), and Stevens sounded fed up following the latest infractions by Kempe, one that led to the Stars’ fourth goal.
Stevens has tried everything else, so this might be one of his last options.
Sean Walker looked good. The rookie defenseman lined up against Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for his first NHL shift and admitted he had nerves. Then he calmed down and looked like a swift puck mover, in partnership with veteran Dion Phaneuf. Walker played more than 13 minutes and got his first NHL point with a pretty assist to Tyler Toffoli.
“Very calm and comfortable,” Stevens said of Walker. “I thought he came in and made an impact. I’m really impressed with what he was able to do coming into this environment, against a team that forechecks really hard, and I thought he was effective.”