The Kings were thrown a life preserver. And then another. And then another.
They still sunk to the bottom.
It seems not even a tugboat can pull the Kings above water these days. Their losing streak reached six games Thursday with a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center, and it was more confounding given that even Minnesota was trying to help the Kings end this slide.
Down 2-1 with fewer than eight minutes remaining, the Kings drew three consecutive power plays, yet couldn’t cash in, even with a six-on-four advantage. Minnesota’s goalie Devan Dubynk, recorded an assist and therefore had as many points as the Kings, whose lone goal by Kyle Clifford was unassisted.
Again, the Kings are at loss.
“We have to stick together right now, because it’s a tough time for our organization,” Ilya Kovalchuk said. “We need to go through it together and look in the mirror and say, ‘What can we do better?’”
They can start with the power play, which reached 0 for 19 on the road. What hurts just as much was that backup goalie Jack Campbell put the Kings in position for success with two goals allowed on 24 shots before the Wild scored twice into an empty net.
Campbell was hard on himself even though he couldn’t be blamed much for the two goals. He shared the feeling of his veteran teammates that they are too good to fall this far, at 2-7-1.
“This is a winning team,” Campbell said. “We expect to be winners and to contend for Stanley Cups, so this is real frustrating. But we have the leaders in the locker room, and whether they have a letter on their jersey or not, there’s some guys in this room that personally, I look up to, and I just keep the boots moving and keep working every day, and I think that’s what everybody’s trying to do.”
Campbell’s start was somewhat surprising, but Jonathan Quick’s save percentage has fallen to .845 and Campbell has stepped up in spot duty. He kept it a one-goal game in the second period with a save on Jason Zucker, but the Wild took a 2-0 lead on Jonas Brodin’s shot as Nino Niederreiter obstructed Campbell’s view.
Clifford grabbed an ill-advised pass off the boards by Nick Seeler and wristed in the puck 3:39 into the third period for his first goal. Minnesota tried to give the game back, on back-to-back penalties by Jordan Greenway, the last when he touched the puck from inside the penalty box. Eric Staal took a delay-of-game penalty.
But the Kings couldn’t score. Kovalchuk had some looks but was not credited with a shot on goal.
“That’s the way it is right now,” Kovalchuk said. “They’re just killing the puck, [and] when they need some, they score goals. We’re all in this situation together. We just have to work even harder and break that [slump]. It’s a lot of games left and we’re not going to give up.”
The numbers are grim. The Kings have been outscored 29-8 during the slide and the future looks more precarious by the day.
On a rare game off, Quick said in the morning that the veterans who have been through thick and thin can turn the ship around, but he acknowledged it isn’t the same makeup as in past years.
“There are changes over the team over the past few years, you know, they’re significant,” he said. “The leaders got to lead better, and the young guys need to keep pushing us to try to stay in line, to keep working, to try and get better every day.”
Coach John Stevens changed up the defense and scratched Derek Forbort in favor of Paul LaDue, whose parents and grandparents made the five-hour drive from North Dakota. Forbort is a Duluth, Minn., product but Stevens has no use for sentimentality.