Whether it's the Christmas break or the All-Star break, the final game before any stoppage in the schedule has proved to be deeply problematic for the Kings.
That shortcoming was on full display on Wednesday night as the Kings managed to squander a two-goal lead, regained the lead and lost it with a shoddy third-period effort against the Colorado Avalanche.
Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon scored goals 2 minutes 57 seconds apart in the third period to lead the Avalanche to 4-3 victory over the Kings at Staples Center. Landeskog scored twice.
"If you want to win in this league, you've got to play a full 60 minutes," Kings defenseman Alec Martinez said. "We didn't maintain it."
This was the same Colorado group that played the previous night at San Jose and was embarrassed by a 6-1 loss to the Sharks. The Avalanche is without its No. 1 goalie, Semyon Varlamov, who is back in Denver attending to legal matters. Goalie Calvin Pickard, who got the win against the Kings, had been sick on Tuesday in San Jose and was pulled against the Sharks.
Landeskog's power-play goal, at 7:38 of the third period, came as the Kings had just about killed off a four-on-three disadvantage, tying it 3-3.
Kings forward Tyler Toffoli compounded matters by taking an offensive zone penalty, for holding, at 8:30. MacKinnon scored right after the power play ended, at 10:35.
The Kings seemed to have regained control after two periods despite several uneven moments.
They head into the All-Star break with a far shakier grip on the top of the Pacific Division. They've lost three of their last four games. You could call it hockey's version of flubbing a couple of tests right before the midterm break.
"Mentally we've got to be a lot sharper," said Kings forward Dwight King. "It's pretty obvious when you stop moving your feet and [take] penalties. That's what sort of happened and we didn't get the kills we needed."
The Kings' wobbles at critical moments relegated a memorable moment to a footnote.
Even after playing 572 regular-season games, there was still some strange, unfamiliar territory for Kings defenseman Drew Doughty to conquer. He had never scored a short-handed goal.
On top of it, Doughty did it in memorable fashion, going around Avalanche defenseman Nick Holden. He finished off the play with a nifty backhander, beating Pickard, going top shelf at 9:31 of the first period.
Doughty was the first Kings defenseman to score a short-handed goal since Willie Mitchell did so, on Oct. 28, 2010 at Dallas.