It would have been a monumental comeback. Maybe one a little reminiscent of the Miracle on Manchester. But instead, it was a game where the Los Angeles Kings exposted its weaknesses.
After overcoming deficits of 4-1, 5-1 and then 6-3 against the Nashville Predators on Saturday afternoon at the Staples Center, the Kings scored twice in the final two minutes, including a goal by Jeff Carter with only 34 seconds left in regulation. But Roman Josi put a swift end to the comeback effort with a goal only 18 seconds into overtime.
Darryl Sutter knew it was going to be a high-scoring game, and he though his team could score seven. What he didn’t know was that his team would fight so hard only to fall just as hard.
"That’s the way hockey works," the Kings head coach said. "I told our players several times tonight that it would take seven goals to win. I was right."
The Kings have failed to follow up their Stanley Cup win with a dominant season. Instead, it’s been characterized by inconsistency and no one is happy with that mid-season assessment.
"Any time we are giving up seven goals, we are not playing the way we want to play," captain Dustin Brown said. "It’s pretty much the halfway point of the year, we’ve been saying we need to be more consistent and we have to stop talking about being consistent and start being consistent."
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It was as if the Kings took off their first shift of overtime, leaving Josi wide open to skate the puck through the high slot and then slide the puck right between Anze Kopitar and Martin Jones. The Kings were guilty of taking off more than a few shifts as the Preds did lead 5-1 early in the second period.
Quick was pulled early in the first period after giving up three goals, the earliest exit he’s has made since the 2012-2013 season. Slow starts have been the culprit of many Kings losses this season. Once they get down, it’s been hard for them to come back. The Kings are 3-10-3 when trailing after two periods.
"Nobody came in prepared to play a good team from our conference," winger Dwight King said. "It took us a while to get into the game and when you are doing that against a good team, it’s tough to find ways to win."
A total of 16 different Predators appeared on the score sheet. It was both a collective effort and a collective breakdown, a the type of game that is difficult on both teams but beneficial for only one.
"I can’t remember the last time we had that type of game," Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. "They have a big team, they tipped everything. They found a way to tip pucks and create screens and pucks were bouncing for both teams. A lot of goals tonight — 13 goals — when you talk about the L.A. Kings and Nashville, that’s going to happen every night."
With the point, the Kings moved into sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division. But there’s no breathing room, and the only way to create some is to remedy their inconsistencies.
"We’re halfway through the year here and we’ve got to figure it out," defenseman Alec Martinez said. "We’re not playing to the best of our abilities and we’re nowhere even close. So we’ve got to turn things around."