Reporting from Glendale, Ariz. — The injustice of it all stood out for the Kings after a 5-4 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes in which they squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-2 and went winless for the fifth time in six games.
Not just what they considered unwarranted major and match penalties against Kyle Clifford for an illegal check to the head of Gilbert Brule late in the third period, which gave the Coyotes a three-minute power play and led to Phoenix’s tying goal by Radim Vrbata.
What bothered them most Tuesday was that their usually dependable penalty killing let them down, preventing them from giving goaltender Jonathan Quick an easy night to reward his steadiness through so many games when they barely met their two-goal quota.
“Too bad that all those games that Jonathan’s been in, those low-scoring games, that he doesn’t win a high-scoring game,” Coach Darryl Sutter said.
“If you give up three power-play goals on the road you’re going to have a tough time winning.”
For the first time this season, the Kings allowed an opponent to score three times with a man advantage — and the Coyotes entered the game ranked 30th in the NHL in that department. But Phoenix, which extended its points streak to 8-0-1, looked like power-play titans in moving the puck swiftly and capitalizing on the Kings’ poor defensive zone coverage.
The Kings did get a consolation point that allowed them to pass Calgary and climb back into eighth in the Western Conference but they kept thinking about the win and the point that got away. They should not have lost this one.
“No, we shouldn’t. Our penalty killing needs to be better,” defenseman Matt Greene said. “I know it’s been good for us all year but then we give up three tonight.
“Also, just blown leads hurt us. We finally get some goals and we let a team like that back into the game. It’s a terrible job by us.”
Clifford will be suspended pending review of the play by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
Although the Kings complained that the penalty call was made late, the referees and linesmen are permitted to confer after a whistle if one believes an illegal check to the head was delivered in violation of Rule 48.
During the ensuing advantage, Vrbata, a one-man wrecking crew, tied it at 17 minutes 33 seconds of the third from the left circle.
In the shootout, Ray Whitney and Mikkel Boedker scored for the Coyotes but only Dustin Brown scored for the Kings on Mike Smith, who had inflicted the first of the two straight shutouts the Kings had absorbed before the game Tuesday at Jobing.com Arena.
“It was kind of a role reversal. We score four goals and our PK, which has been probably the best area of our game all year, was the worst part of our game tonight,” Brown said.
They played an impressive first period, with Drew Doughty, Andrei Loktionov and Brown staking them to a 3-0 lead, but Vrbata and Shane Doan cut that to 3-2 on power-play goals in the second.
Justin Williams made it 4-2 on a power-play goal in front at 11:51 of the second but Doan, at 17:07 of the second, and Vrbata’s unassisted goal prolonged the Kings’ agony.
“There’s no way a team like this, especially our team, a good, solid defensive team, should be blowing a three-goal lead,” Doughty said. “It’s entirely our fault because we played well in the first and we didn’t play well for the next two periods.
“We need to look back at it and see what we did wrong, but the main focus is playing well for 60 minutes and we should easily have had that game.”