Are the Los Angeles Kings in dire straights or are they on the up-and-up again? It’s difficult to tell at the moment.
The Kings earned a point Saturday, and showed gritty resolve in a comeback effort. But the problem was that the Winnipeg Jets had some comeback in them too. The Kings have now lost five of their last seven games, including three-straight, punctuated by a 5-4 shootout loss to the Jets, Saturday night at the Staples Center.
"We can’t give up five goals and expect to win a hockey game," said defenseman Alec Martinez. "That’s what it comes down to. You can’t have first period starts like we’ve had. In the second half we started playing more of a team game. We started to match their physical play, but at the end of the day, you can’t give up that many goals and expect to win."
What exactly was it punctuated by?
There were some highlights – a three-goal comeback after going down by the same number when the Jets scored on their first three shots. But the lowlights – a game-tying goal allowed with just under six minutes left, exactly zero shootout goals, a case of mono and a broken leg – far outweigh the high.
"We know that they’re a big team and we know they’re desperate," said winger Kyle Clifford. They want to make the playoffs and we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We’ve just got to be ready from the start."
The Kings might have played solid hockey for 60 minutes, but the problem was that they played for 70. And the first 10 were a disaster. Mathieu Perreault and Dustin Byfuglien wreaked havoc on the Kings’ defense up front and the Jets scored on their first three shots.
"It’s disappointing. The start wasn’t ideal, but we rallied back," said winger Marian Gaborik. "It wasn’t an ideal game for us; this is not the way we want to play, giving up that many goals. We were in a hole, we came back, we rallied back, it’s too bad about the outcome."
By the middle of the third period, the Kings had a 4-3 lead. But by the end, it was tied again.
The numbers don’t favor the Kings in one-goal games: 5-6-9 and their shootout record of 1-5 is even worse. The simple solution is to start as strong as they finish.
"If we keep on digging ourselves in a hole in the first period like we’ve been doing, and giving up as many goals as we have been, it’s going to be pretty difficult on us," Martinez said.
But there were some lowlights, like Tanner Pearson’s broken leg, which is what LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen is reporting is the case.
Pearson, who earlier in the day was named a participant the NHL All-Star weekend skills competition, was slammed into the boards and skated off without putting any pressure on his left leg. Pearson had trouble getting over the boards and was helped into the dressing room by trainers.
He did not return. Coach Darryl Sutter said it was a lower-leg injury with no word on his return, but Jon Rosen got a confirmation from hockey operations that his leg is, in fact, broken.
Prior to the game, the Kings also announced that Tyler Toffoli was scratched due to a positive test for mononucleosis. There’s no timetable on a return for him either.
"We saw he had a rash after that last game," Sutter said. "The doctors looked at it and did some blood work on it and it came back mono."
With the loss, the Kings fall behind the Sharks into fourth place in the Pacific Division with 48 points and the Jets (49 points) moved ahead to first place in the Wild Card race. The Kings are starting to become a desperate team.
"Anytime you want to win in this league, it’s not easy," Clifford said. "If you’re not desperate, you’re not going to win."